Strawberry Production with Everbearers for Northeastern Producers

Strawberry Production
with Everbearers
for Northeastern Producers
EB 401
Willie Lantz
Extension Educator—Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Maryland Extension—Garrett County
Dr. Harry Swartz
Owner Five Aces Breeding and
Retired—University of Maryland, Associate Professor, Horticulture
Kathleen Demchak
Senior Extension Associate, Horticulture
Penn State University
Sherry Frick
Program Assistant, Horticulture
University of Maryland Extension—Garrett County
Reviewed by:
Dr. Richard Marini
Professor and Head, Department of Horticulture
Penn State University
Dr. Lewis Jett
Extension Specialist—Extension Specialist Horticulture and Assistant Professor
West Virginia University Extension Service
Mike Newell
Faculty Research Assistant and Program Manager
Horticulture Crops
Wye Research and Educational Center
University of Maryland
University of Maryland Extension
Garrett County Office
1916 Maryland Highway, Suite A
Mt. Lake Park, MD 21550
Funding for editing and layout for this publication was provided through a Northeast
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Research and Education Grant.
Northeast SARE is a regional program of the national SARE program, which is part of
the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Maryland, College Park, and local governments. Cheng-i
Wei, Director of University of Maryland Extension.
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College Park, MD 20742.
Photo Credits:
Kathleen Demchak, The Pennsylvania State University.
Cover, Figs. 3.3; 3.10; 5.1–5.12
Willie Lantz, University of Maryland Extension.
Figs. 2.1–2.2; 3.2; 3.4–3.9; 3.11.1–3.13; 3.15–3.16; 4.9
Dr. Harry Swartz, University of Maryland.
Figs. 3.1, 3.14, 4.1–4.8
Editing by Tawna Mertz, TKM Marketing Inc.
Layout and design by Joanne Shipley
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
The Everbearing Strawberry Plant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Chapter 2
Economics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Chapter 3
Annual Plasticulture Production of Everbearing Strawberries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Chapter 4
Alternative Cultural Systems for Growing Everbearers: an Overview. . . . . . . . . . . 42
Chapter 5
Pests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Additional Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Appendix A
Fungicides for Strawberry Disease and Insect Control. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Appendix B
Insecticides, Miticides, and Molluscides for Strawberry Pest Control . . . . . . . . . . . 70
List of Tables
Table 2.1. Annual Everbearing Strawberry Budget. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Table 3.1. Number of Strawberry Plants per Acre at Different Bed
and In-row Spacing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Table 3.2. Irrigation Example. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Table 3.3. Fertilizer Example. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
T h e
C h a p t e r 1
E v e r b e a r i n g S t r a w b e r r y
P l a n t
The Promise of Everbearers
Strawberries are available in grocery stores 365 days a year. This is largely due to
the fact that berries are shipped from different locations across the United States
and around the world. However, in the eastern United States, fresh, locally-grown
strawberries are only available at farmers markets, roadside stands, and grocery
stores for several weeks during the late spring and early summer. This limited
availability occurs mostly because the commercial strawberry production in the
East is derived from June-bearing varieties, which have a brief production season.
Until recently, summer-long production of strawberries in the eastern United
States was limited to backyard gardens, because the only obtainable varieties of
everbearing strawberries had small fruit size and low yields. Now, the availability of
new varieties and the adaptation of a plasticulture-based production system enable
growers in the eastern states to produce and market fresh strawberries throughout
the summer and into the fall. Trials in western Maryland and central Pennsylvania
showed that everbearing varieties in a plasticulture system can produce as much
as 1.8 pounds per plant, or 27,000 pounds per acre. Most producers easily achieved
1 pound of marketable fruit per plant from an annual planting. During the summer
months of 2009, fresh local fruit sold for up to $4.00 per pound.
The primary purpose of this guide is to provide the opportunity for growers
in the eastern United States to grow everbearing strawberries profitably.
Information gained from research trials will be shared with growers in addition
to the observations and experiences of the guide’s authors and other significant
contributors. Although the information presented in this manual reflects the
University of Maryland Extension’s current knowledge base; it should be noted that
advances in plant breeding, culture, and understanding of the strawberry plant will
continue to progress. As new information becomes available, growers will have the
ability to make adjustments to meet the rapidly changing agricultural landscape.
Some History
Species of strawberry (Fragaria) that grow in temperate zones and fruit during
the early summer have adapted to the climate by reserving the middle and end
of the growing seasons for vegetative growth. The plants build on this vegetative
framework, preparing to produce the next generation as seeds on the fruit for
the following spring when growing conditions are usually lush. In this process,
strawberries have evolved to initiate flowers when vegetative growth has ceased
in the fall; short days and cool temperatures signal flower initiation. The flowers
initiated during the fall will bloom in the spring and produce fruit within 30 days.
Therefore, all of the June-bearing cultivars are short-day plants, according to the
length of day under which they initiate flowering.
How did strawberries adapt to areas in the northern latitudes and at high elevations
which experience frozen conditions during short days? The answer is that the
strawberries jettisoned the “short day” mechanisms, and instead initiated flowers
in August when days are still long. These very cold locations have short growing
seasons, therefore causing plants to behave like short-day plants, with a crop being
produced in the spring, and plants remaining vegetative for the remainder of their
brief growing season. Royce Bringhurst, a well-known University of California plant
breeder, transported plants growing at high elevations in Utah to low elevation
locations in California with a longer growing season. He found that the plants lacked
the short day response of June-bearing types and flowered throughout the year,
thus earning the name “day-neutral.”
Although modern everbearers are classified as day-neutral because of their ability
to initiate flower buds under various day lengths, their other plant processes
do respond to day length. When light intensity and temperature are equivalent,
everbearing strawberries produce more flowers, fruit, and runners during long
days compared with shorter days. Everbearers in the northeastern United States
can have a significant “June” or fall-initiated crop, similar to that of a June-bearing
variety. But, everbearers do not become dormant as noticeably as June-bearers,
which typically go through a strong leaf color change in the fall (not all varieties).
Instead, everbearers continue to flower.
Most strawberry varieties, whether June-bearers or everbearers, have a chilling
requirement that must be met before the plants can resume vigorous growth in
the spring. Specific chilling requirements of different varieties of June-bearing
and everbearing strawberries vary, and there is some overlap between the two
types. The lesser winter dormancy of certain cultivars is due to the efforts of plant
breeders, especially those who breed for lower latitudes where winter temperatures
are warm. However, strawberries characteristically benefit from cold conditions at
28-45˚F, and preferably between 30-38˚F, and in excess of 400 hours.
Typically, the vegetative growth of chilled plants is more vigorous than non-chilled
plants. Non-chilled everbearers that have been planted in warm areas such as
southern Florida may lack vegetative vigor which can be manifested by shortened
petioles and fruit stalks (peduncles) and trusses, lack of runnering, and slower
crown development. Planting during the fall, in regions with more than 3 weeks of
daytime highs below 45˚F, fulfills the chilling requirement prior to spring flowering.
Also, the growth of everbearers and June-bearers will become more vegetatively
vigorous the following year. Thus, everbearers retain some ability to sense daylength while retaining their chill or winter response mechanisms.
Some conditions exist where everbearing strawberries will not flower despite
being nominally day-neutral. For instance, short days that have poor light and
cold or freezing temperatures inhibit flowering, while anther formation and pollen
production can be severely reduced. Flower initiation and development also can be
inhibited when temperatures are high (above 85˚F). Under these conditions, fruit
size suffers as well as fruit firmness, fruit sugar levels, and aromatic content. Fruit
production is often depressed during the summer months in areas with extended
hot summers (including many eastern United States locations with elevations less
than 2,500 feet); however, high yields can occur during the late summer and fall.
In high elevation areas with cool summers (i.e. locations above 2,500 feet in the
East, and even higher elevations in the western United States), fruit production
remains consistent throughout the summer with peak production in mid-summer. In
northern locations where temperatures are cooler, high elevation is not necessary
for successful summer production. One of the most successful everbearing
industries is in Quebec, Canada, at elevations less than 400 feet.
In light of these differences, growers must carefully select the plant type, planting
date, mulch color, fertilization, variety, and plant density that will maximize the yield
while maximizing plant health and fruit size. An understanding of the differences
between everbearing and June-bearing strawberries will allow growers to make
well-founded decisions when managing their plantings.
Crown Numbers: June-bearers vs. Everbearers
Where maximum yield is achieved in the temperate zone areas (from Georgia
northward), June-bearing plants in plasticulture production typically have 3-4
crowns per plant by spring flowering. Also, due to the short harvest season, Junebearers do not become very dense during fruiting. In contrast, everbearing plants
with 3-4 crowns by first flower could have as many as a dozen crowns by the end of
the first growing season. The majority of the harvest season would produce plants
that are too dense and disease prone, and the late-season fruit would be small.
Although crowns are necessary for yield, an overly dense field, either matted row
or plasticulture, requires crown thinning to reduce crown numbers. Thinning crowns
is a labor intensive and expensive practice; therefore, it’s advisable to initiate the
season with a single crowned everbearing plant that has been newly set or planted
during the previous fall. The majority of dormant plants obtained from a nursery
are single-crowned. Everbearing plants should be planted relatively late to minimize
the number of branch crowns formed; this is a sharp contrast to the strategy for
June-bearers which thrive upon branch crown development. Differences in variety
and climate also will affect plant performance. Generally, warmer climates produce
more runners and fewer branch crowns.
Dormancy and Overwintering
As previously mentioned, the everbearing strawberry plant becomes dormant
reluctantly, and is forced to stop growing once the plant simply runs out of growing
conditions. This process occurs to a lesser degree than most June-bearers due to
the fact dormancy is triggered by short days and low temperatures.
It should be noted that it is not unusual for everbearers to continue to flower through
the first light frost. For instance, the variety Everest has been harvested along the
protected shores of Lake Erie in mid-December. Everbearers develop winter or shortday anatomy (shortened petioles that are more prostrate) which show that they are
responsive to winter conditions. Reduction in plant growth is caused by low sun angle
and shorter day lengths, the loss of leaf function due to shading from floating row
covers (usually occurs 4-6 weeks after applying the row cover), and the reduction
in temperatures. Flowers can be initiated during the winter for the everbearer and
the June-bearer because flower initiation does not require a significant amount of
energy. However, while dormancy may prevent flowers from growing in the Junebearer, the everbearer does not express flowers because the trusses require sugar
in order to elongate, and short days limit photosynthetic sugar production and
elongation of trusses. On warm winter days or early in the spring, everbearers can
produce short trusses that are sometimes hidden in the crown which are wintertender. When flowers actually grow through the winter under conditions not favorable
for photosynthesis, anther development is poor and the fruit may show symptoms of
frost injury such as cat-facing and puckering.
Winter care of everbearers in areas colder than Zone 7 is less difficult because
flower trusses that have been killed can be replaced by newly initiated trusses at
any time. Overwintering of everbearers has been quite successful as far north as
Quebec with varieties such as Seascape, Everest, and Evie 2.
As a precautionary note, there are indications that everbearer plants with less
intense dormancy can lose vitality in long-term storage at 30-38˚F at a rate faster
than dormant June-bearers. When planting dormant bare-root plants, growers must
ensure that the plants have been continuously “frozen” at 30˚F, shipped cold, and
planted quickly as possible.
C h a p t e r 2
E c o n o m i c s
Budgets for everbearing strawberry production are similar to those for Junebearing plant production systems. The major difference in everbearer production
is increased labor costs for harvesting due to the long harvest season and higher
yields. Therefore, production during the off-season when prices are highest may
result in a large portion of the profits. Some of the costs of everbearer production
are higher than June-bearer production; however, the cost in other areas is lower
due to the fact that the steps involved in renovation, overwinter protection, and
frost protection during the spring are eliminated if the plants are grown only for
one season. The labor savings created by eliminating these steps as well as the
decreased need for frost protection infrastructure makes the everbearing system
attractive for small-scale integrated production.
In order to maximize profitability, growers must
maximize both yields and prices for their specific
operations. Minimizing costs may or may not have
a positive effect on profitability; however, cutting
corners often negatively affects yields. Chapters
3 and 4 of this manual discuss maximizing yields,
as the demand for the product in specific growers
markets determines the price that berries can be
sold. Some growers report a strong market for
strawberries at off-peak times of the year, while
others do not. In some cases, consumers are
skeptical that the strawberries in the marketplace
in months other than May or June are truly local.
Generally, the market for off-season berries is
somewhat weak when buyers prefer to purchase
an individual crop during its traditional season.
However, the market is much stronger when the
majority of buyers are willing to purchase berries
all year round. The strength of sales through
different marketing channels varies. For instance,
some growers report weak sales for everbearing
strawberries at their farm stands during the fall,
but stronger sales at farmers markets for the
same berries.
Fig. 2.1 Everbearing strawberry fruit can be very
profitable at farmers markets during summer
months, fetching as much as $3.00 per pint or
about $4.00 per pound.
It is important to fully comprehend the production costs of everbearing
strawberries. If growers cannot produce sufficient income from everbearing
strawberries to cover both the costs of producing the berries and paying oneself a
sufficient wage for effort, then it’s probably not feasible for the grower to remain in
business for the long-term. The following budgets are intended to help growers (1)
plan for their enterprise, and (2) ensure that growers are aware of costs in order to
make an accurate assessment of their profitability.
Fixed Costs
Fixed costs are those costs incurred as the owner of equipment or property; these
costs do not vary with acres in production. For example, the cost for the land,
buildings, equipment owned, and real estate taxes would remain the same whether
the grower produces strawberries, another type of crop, or leaves the land fallow.
Fixed costs are very challenging to estimate for a production budget—as these costs
vary greatly from farm-to-farm, and thus are not included in Table 2.1. However, a
land charge is included which may cover costs associated with owning the acres in
The budget presented in Table 2.1 was designed for an annual everbearing
plasticulture planting—provided that plug plants are planted in the spring, the fruit
harvested during the summer and fall, and the plants removed in the fall. If the
planting is kept throughout the winter for production a second year, additional
costs will be incurred as a result of providing winter protection, spring frost
protection, and planting care and harvest until production has been discontinued.
Many growers only produce fruit for the second year during the spring harvest
season; this second spring crop can be quite substantial; however, berry size often
decreases markedly.
Variable Costs
The cost of establishing everbearing strawberry plantings is higher than the cost
of establishing June-bearing plants. Cost per plant of everbearing varieties may
be 20-50% higher than for June-bearing varieties (depending upon the variety
In areas with short growing seasons and late spring frosts, the only feasible planting
method is to begin with plug plants that were produced from dormant bare-root
plants. The cost of plug plants will range from $0.30-$0.40 per plant. Although
the cost of plug plants are 2-3 times higher than bare-root plants, the additional
cost can be negated by 0.1 pounds of increased fruit production, provided that the
fruit is sold at $3.00-$4.00 per pound. For everbearing plants, higher costs are
associated with insect and disease control. Because these plants produce fruit for
15-20 weeks, additional applications of insecticide and fungicides may be required.
Labor costs for planting, weeding, or depositing straw are estimated at $800 per
acre per year. This estimate was obtained from June-bearing plasticulture, which
includes (1) labor for row cover application and removal, and (2) frost protection.
However, with more intensive management of everbearers throughout the summer,
producers should expect to spend more time maintaining and operating certain
tasks such as trickle irrigation. Thus, required labor was estimated to be similar.
Fruit picking labor was estimated at $0.36 per pound, which was based on industry
standards of $0.50 per quart. Since the everbearing strawberry season is extended
throughout many weeks, the amount of fruit to pick at any one harvest is much
lower than with June-bearing varieties, therefore increasing the harvest time
per area. However, since everbearing varieties in annual systems usually produce
smaller plants, less time is needed to locate the fruit, and results in roughly similar
time requirements for harvest per pound of fruit.
Fig. 2.2 Organic
offerings of locally
produced everbearing
strawberries can be
very attractive to
wholesale purchasers
for grocery stores.
Table 2.1. Everbearing Strawberry Annual Budget
Number Plants
% Saleable
per lb
1.00 lb
Soil Prep - Machinery Costs
per acre
per acre
Fertilizer Application
per acre
Plastic Laying
per acre
per acre
per acre
8 applications
19-19-19 Dry Fertilizer
per lb
200 lbs per acre
20-20-20 Soluble Fertilizer
per lb
200 lbs per acre
per acre
per acre
2 rolls per acre
1 roll per acre
Supplies and Materials
Black Plastic
per roll
Drip Tape
per roll
Strawberry Plug Plants
per plant
Containers (pint pulps)
933 containers
per flat
78 flats
Straw for between Rows
per ton
2 ton
per lb
700 pounds fruit/1000 plants
Other Labor (planting, etc)
per acre
per acre
Fixed Costs
Land Charge
Total Costs
Return to Management and Investment
Return per Pound
Return per Plant
Return per Plant
Labor: 2 hours per picking X 3 pickings per
week X 15 weeks = 90 hours per season for
1000 plants
Equipment is based on PA Custom Rates in
2009 which includes equipment, tractor, and
C h a p t e r 3
A n n u a l P l a s t i c u l t u r e P r o d u c t i o n
E v e r b e a r i n g S t r a w b e r r i e s
o f
In the eastern United States, spring planted, in-ground raised bed, plasticulture is
the most reliable and economical method to produce an everbearer crop without
taking extraordinary measures. At this time, plasticulture is the predominant system
utilized for everbearer production in the eastern United States and around the
world. When considering alternative production methods, growers should carefully
review the other systems and options described in Chapter 4. Also, it is advisable to
explore the pros, cons, and tips of the various systems; this information was based
upon currently available data.
Plasticulture production requires certain equipment and infrastructure, specifically
bed makers, plastic layers, water for trickle irrigation, and sufficient capital to afford
the plants. Some of the advantages of the plasticulture system include:
• Warmer soil in spring for earlier planting and vigorous starts.
• Controlled soil moisture to avoid wet roots in extended periods of rain.
• Less soil water evaporation during summer months.
• Less need for chemical weed control.
The combination of good climate, correct cultivar selection, and skillful management
is necessary to ensure profitability in plasticulture production. During various
trials in Maryland and Pennsylvania, everbearer yields of 1.0-1.8 pounds per plant
were obtained from spring-planted plug plants in this planting system. These trials
produced returns that considerably exceeded costs. The goal of this chapter is to
share information regarding the production methods used in this region where high
yields were obtained.
Pre-Plant Considerations
When considering soils and site selection, many of the same criteria that apply to
strawberry production in other systems also may apply to everbearer plasticulture
production. For example, strawberries, other fruit, or solanaceous crops (e.g.
tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.) must not have been planted during the preceding
5 years due to the susceptibility of strawberries to soil diseases, specifically
verticillium wilt. Soils must be well-drained, irrigation should be available, and
crop rotations should be planned to minimize other potential issues. These topics
plastic u lt u re
pro d u ction
and others are discussed in detail in the Mid-Atlantic Berry Guide for Commercial
Growers (Demchak, K., et al., 2010) or other relevant Extension publications for
specific regions. (See “Additional Reading”).
Site Preparation
A soil test should be conducted 6 months prior to planting in order to determine
fertility needs. Organic matter percentage must be requested, if not reported as
part of the standard results by the lab the grower is using. If a site has a history
of fruit production, it is advisable to conduct testing to determine the nematode
Pre-plant fumigation is no longer routinely used or recommended in the MidAtlantic if crop rotation recommendations are followed and there are no known
problems which could be resolved by fumigation. Biofumigation may be an option
for growers who must fumigate but would prefer to use an environmentally-friendly
approach; however current technologies and specific recommendations are still
in development. Current suggestions for utilizing biofumigation are discussed
in Chapter 4 under “Matted Row Production,” along with modifications to make
biofumigation useable for a plasticulture system.
When rotating to soils that have not been tilled or that have had perennial grasses
or weed problems, the soil should be tilled during the fall before planting. It will be
unlikely that herbicides can be applied early enough in the spring to obtain proper
weed or grass control and also allow time for tillage and early planting. Applying
herbicides to grass sods during the fall will provide superior control of grasses and
weeds, while simultaneously maintaining a residue cover that will help to avoid
soil erosion during the winter. Cover crops can be established on the field provided
that (1) the grass has been killed during the late summer and early fall and (2) the
primary tillage has been completed. This formula will provide the most effective
combination of soil protection and workable soil for an early spring planting.
Systemic and burndown herbicides such as glyphosate (Roundup, Touchdown, etc.)
or paraquat (Gramoxone) should be applied to the ground at least ten days before
the soil will be plowed or tilled. These products require that the plants are actively
growing and temperatures are above 50˚F for superior results.
Types of Plants and Plant Sources
In the East, dormant bare-root plants are usually the sole source of planting stock
readily available for spring planting. Fortunately, dormant plants are the least
expensive stock for annual plantings. Dormant plants either can be planted directly
plastic u lt u re
pro d u ction
into the field during the spring, or they can first be grown in multi-cell trays for a
short period of time in order to form plug plants. Plug plants grown from dormant
plants have the advantage of being established in containers prior to field planting,
which means that they can reliably begin to grow regardless of soil and weather
conditions. Once planted in the field they establish quickly and produce fruit in 4560 days.
To make plug plants, it is necessary to schedule the delivery of dormant stock from
a nursery in mid-February or 60 days before planting in the field. Then, plants are
planted into 32-cell trays, since a relatively large cell size is necessary to
accommodate the large root systems of dormant plants. Growers should use a peat
and perlite soilless mix that will provide sufficient drainage through the use of a
relatively high proportion of perlite, and mix in the light rate of a 3-4 month 13-13-13
or similar slow release fertilizer as listed on the container. Dead leaves, petioles, and
half of the roots should be trimmed off by hand prior to planting the plants in the
cells. For optimal root growth, maintain cool temperatures (as close to 50°F as
possible). Plants must not be allowed to freeze; however, when planting time arrives,
it is important to expose the plants to the elements to help them harden off. When
plug plants are grown at higher temperatures, they have the tendency to become
leggier and more susceptible to wind damage and desiccation once they are
planted. Flower blossoms should be removed from plants while they are being
grown in the trays.
Fig. 3.1 Everbearing strawberry plug ready for planting.
plastic u lt u re
pro d u ction
When possible, growers can use greenhouse space as an alternative method for
making plug plants for spring planting. First, the grower should obtain standard 40
or 50 cell plug plants during the early fall—as if conducting a fall planting in the
field. The plug plants are then transferred to larger cells in October and allowed to
overwinter in unheated greenhouses (heated only if the temperatures get below
22˚F). By spring, every effort should be made to keep the plants short to avoid
legginess. Growers can accomplish this task by keeping plants in low temperatures
and ensuring that they are not given supplemental light. Exposure to low or slightly
sub-freezing temperatures for a week will harden plants somewhat; then plants can
be planted during the spring.
When ordering plants, growers must be aware that plant densities are quite high in
plasticulture systems. Depending on the spacing used, 11,000-15,000 plants per acre
are required. More details on plant spacing options are provided below.
Outside of California, few varieties of everbearing strawberries have been
developed in the United States. Two exceptions include Tristar and Tribute—which
were released in 1981 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These
two varieties are disease resistant and have good flavor; however, the fruit size and
firmness is not of commercial standards. Varieties currently used in the eastern
United States are derived from breeding programs in California as well as the
United Kingdom. Seascape was developed at the University of California at Davis,
and is the most widely used everbearing variety in the East. Evie 2 was developed
by the Edward Vinson breeding program in England. The Evie 2 variety is more
vigorous, mildew resistant, and can be more productive, especially when planted in
unfumigated soil. Seascape and Evie 2 have become the dominant varieties
available for commercial production in the East. Available everbearing cultivars are
listed below and further discussed.
Albion. Released in 2006 from the University
of California. Albion is very widely grown in
California. Growers reports from the Mid-Atlantic
are positive regarding the quality, despite low
yields. Albion produces a high percentage of
marketable fruit that are quite firm and even
endure prolonged wet spells. Due to its size and
shape, Albion is reminiscent of Camarosa or
Diamante (one of its parents). Also, the fruit
Fig. 3.2 Albion everbearing strawberry variety.
plastic u lt u re
pro d u ction
produced is elongated and can be somewhat
uneven in appearance. Albion has a perfect red
color and has acceptably good flavor when fully
ripe. Albion plants are very vigorous, and
produce a large number of runners in the North.
Despite these plants producing much foliage, the
fruit can be picked very fast due to extremely
large fruit size. Albion is resistant to verticillium
wilt, and is moderately susceptible to powdery
mildew and fruit anthracnose. This variety is
recommended on a trial basis for the MidAtlantic region.
Fig. 3.3 Albion fruit.
Aromas. A day-neutral from the University of California introduced in 1997. It is
high yielding, and somewhat poorer quality than the more recent introductions. In a
Pennsylvania trial, the fruit were relatively large for an everbearer and had a rich
red color, but were a bit too firm. Aromas have fair to good flavor and are
susceptible to verticillium wilt and common leaf spot. This variety is not
recommended for the Mid-Atlantic.
Diamante. Introduced in 1997 by the University of California. Its fruit is large and
firm, but low in sugars and aroma. This variety has good color and shape. Diamante
yielded less than Seascape in Pennsylvania. It is not recommended for the MidAtlantic.
Everest. Introduced by Edward Vinson Plants,
Ltd. (United Kingdom) in 1998. This cultivar’s
strong point is its high yields on suitable sites.
The main problem with this berry is its smaller
size, very soft fruit, and lack of flavor in warmer
weather. Its flavor improves during cool fall
conditions, and some growers find the quality to
be acceptable. Everest produces few runners.
This variety is very susceptible to anthracnose
fruit rot and verticillium wilt, therefore growers
must be careful with rotations if other
verticillium wilt-susceptible crops were planted
in the field. Everest is resistant to red stele and
powdery mildew. This variety is recommended
for trial.
Fig. 3.4 Everest fruit.
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Evie 2. Introduced by Edward Vinson Plants, Ltd. (United Kingdom) in 2001.
Evie 2 fruit is large, attractive, and uniform, but its color is light and texture is soft.
Its flavor is average to somewhat acidic. In a Pennsylvania trial, yields were
considerably lower than those of Seascape or Everest. In Maryland grower trials,
yields have been very good. Evie 2 plants are very vigorous and somewhat powdery
mildew resistant. This cultivar tends to utilize the space that is available to it by
growing larger, but yields do not necessarily increase in proportion to the larger
plant size. This variety is recommended for trial.
Fig. 3.6 Evie 2 fruit.
Fig. 3.5 Evie 2 everbearing strawberry variety.
Evie 3. Introduced by Edward Vinson Plants, Ltd. (United Kingdom) in 2003. The
Evie 3 is high yielding and similar to Everest in productivity, however its fruit is soft,
light-colored and low on flavor. No source of plants for growers in the United States
was located as of this writing.
Fern. Released in 1983 from the University of California. Fern berries are soft and
light-colored and not very flavorful. This variety has average productivity. Fern is
not recommended.
Fort Laramie. Released in 1973 from the USDA in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This
variety is winter hardy, but it is susceptible to a number of fruit-rotting diseases and
powdery mildew. Its fruit is small and soft under warm conditions. This variety is not
recommended for the Mid-Atlantic.
Hecker. Released from the University of California in 1979. Hecker is usually
low-yielding compared to other everbearing cultivars. This variety is not
recommended for the Mid-Atlantic.
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Mara Des Bois. Released in 1991 by Marionnet SARL, a nursery and breeding
company in France. This variety is considered a “gourmet” berry and is prized by
some chefs. Its berries are small, but very flavorful and aromatic. Mara Des Bois is
susceptible to fruit anthracnose. This variety is recommended for trial in protected
culture, but not for field production.
Monterey. From the University of California. Only recently has Monterey been
obtainable outside of California, where it produces large firm fruit on vigorous
plants. It is susceptible to powdery mildew. At this time, there are no
recommendations available for the Mid-Atlantic states due to lack of testing.
Portola. From the University of California. Only recently has Portola been
obtainable outside of California, where fruit is large, and somewhat light in color.
At this time, there are no recommendations available for the Mid-Atlantic states due
to lack of testing.
Quinault. Released in 1967 from Washington State University. This variety is
commonly available in nursery catalogs, but of little utility in a commercial setting.
It is not recommended for the Mid-Atlantic.
Tribute. Released in 1981 from the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. Tribute’s flavor is
somewhat more mild than Tristar, but it is still tart. Its fruit size is relatively small
and firm; the plants are fairly vigorous. This variety is only recommended for trial or
backyard production.
Tristar. Released in 1981 from the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland. This variety has
good flavor, but can be tart. Tristar’s fruit is firm and its size is small in hot weather.
It is resistant to red stele, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew. Tristar is
recommended only for trial or backyard production.
San Andreas. From the University of California. San Andreas has only recently
become obtainable outside of California. Its fruit is large and somewhat light in
color. This variety is reported to have more resistance to diseases than previous
University of California varieties as well as a better flavor and fruit quality. There
are no recommendations available for the Mid-Atlantic states due to lack of testing.
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Seascape. Released in 1990 from the University of California. Seascape is the
most widely grown cultivar for everbearing production in the eastern United States
and Canada. It’s typically quite productive, and produces medium-sized and
medium-red fruit with notable sweetness and has a nice shape. However, powdery
mildew has been a problem during some years. Seascape is susceptible to red stele,
but is resistant to leaf scorch. This variety is recommended in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Fig. 3.7 Seascape everbearing variety.
Fig. 3.8 Seascape fruit.
Selva. Released in 1983 from the University of California. In a Pennsylvania trial,
Selva fruit was soft and light-colored but had little flavor. Its size was average. This
variety is not recommended for the Mid-Atlantic.
For everbearing strawberries, adequate nutrients must be available throughout the
growing season to produce high yields. The soil pH should be 6.0-6.5 for maximum
availability of plant nutrients. Some of the plant nutrients are integrated into the
soil prior to making the bed and applying the plastic. At a later time, additional
application of nutrients is made through the drip tape. Either organic or inorganic
sources can be used to provide nutrients.
Organic inputs such as composts, manures, and green manure crops can provide
adequate nutrition. Be aware that a couple of weeks may be required before
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sufficient nutrients from organic (i.e. carbon-based) sources are mineralized into
plant useable forms. Incorporating manure, green manure crops, and compost into
the soil 2-3 weeks prior to planting will help solve this problem. Also, due to low
mineralization rates, only 10-30% of the total nitrogen in the compost will be
available during the first year. This means that as little as 2 pounds of obtainable
nitrogen may be available per ton of compost in the year of application; therefore,
large quantities of organic nutrient sources may be needed. Because the quantities
of nutrients vary greatly with the source of organic matter, it is strongly
recommended that an analysis of the material be conducted to avoid over- or
under- application of nutrients. Some providers of organic composts may already
have this information.
Nutrients from commercial inorganic granular fertilizers are more quickly available,
and thus fertilizers should be incorporated into the soil just prior to forming beds and
applying the plastic. When nutrients are applied through drip irrigation, the fertilizer
solution should be applied 1-2 times per week during routine watering cycles. Organic
and inorganic fertilizers may be applied to provide the needed combination of
The everbearing strawberry offers an opportunity for a new fruit industry in the
eastern United States. However, because this is a new industry, the data that
establishes a nutrient regime (especially for nitrogen fertilization in cool climates) is
being compiled from information in various locations for both June-bearers and
everbearers. Considerations regarding the application and specific nutrients
requirements are described below.
Nitrogen (N). The current recommendation is to integrate 60 pounds of
nitrogen per acre prior to planting. Many high analysis granular fertilizers that
provide nitrogen such as 10-20-20 or 19-19-19 use ammonium phosphate as a source
of readily available phosphorus. These types of fertilizers may be incorporated into
the beds pre-plant to meet nitrogen requirements, but if the additional phosphorus
or potassium is not needed, it may unnecessarily load the soil with phosphorus or
potassium and potentially contaminate the groundwater.
Phosphorus (P). Compared with nitrogen and potassium, phosphorus
requirements for strawberry plants are low. Thus growers should use low
phosphorus analysis fertilizers to avoid exceeding recommended levels of
phosphorus, especially in Maryland where nutrient management laws prohibit the
use of nitrogen and phosphorus above levels recommended by nutrient
management plans. Starter fertilizers may be of value, particularly when soil
temperatures are cool at planting. In Europe, monoammonium phosphate is
commonly used at a rate of approximately 10 pounds per acre of actual nitrogen.
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Potassium (K). Potassium is an important nutrient for the development of the
strawberry flavor. Large amounts of potassium are transported into the fruit during
ripening. When fertilizer is applied through the drip irrigation system it may be
advantageous for growers to switch to a soluble fertilizer with a higher level of
potassium a week before strawberries are expected to ripen. Commercially available
soluble fertilizers with analysis such as 9-15-30 or 4-10-40 are available (See Table 3.3).
Calcium (Ca). Calcium is adequate in most soils in the eastern United States
and moves into the plant with the water flow. Thus, symptoms of calcium deficiency
most commonly appear when plants are moisture-stressed, rather than truly
calcium deficient. The constant cropping of everbearing plants, especially in cold or
hot weather when root growth is severely reduced, also can result in poor uptake of
calcium despite adequate or excess calcium in the soil. Reduced calcium can result
in reduced firmness, especially if temperatures are hot. Applying calcium sprays
may have little benefit; therefore, it may be more profitable to maintain healthy
roots and sufficient moisture levels. If there are concerns that calcium may be
deficient, a grower can lime before planting or use soluble calcium nitrate as the
source of nitrogen, provided that levels of phosphorus and potassium are adequate.
Magnesium (Mg). Magnesium levels are generally sufficient in the soil for
strawberry production within the Mid-Atlantic region. In situations where
magnesium needs to be added and the soil pH is sufficient or shouldn’t be raised,
Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or Mag-Ox can be used. If the pH also needs to be
raised, dolomitic lime can be used.
Boron (B). Boron deficiencies occur most often in deep sandy soils and
sporadically in other soil types. Boron is needed for cell division and pollination;
therefore, the symptoms of boron deficiencies are poor fruit “seed” set and poorly
formed spindly leaf development. Boron is important at the time of flower
development and during runner production. Once signs of boron deficiency are
detected, it will be too late for currently developing fruit, but the addition of boron
to plants that show deficiency symptoms early in the season may correct the
problem for fruit developing later in the season. Tissue samples should be
monitored for boron levels in suspected boron deficient areas. If tissue sample
levels fall below 25 parts per million, an application of 1/8 pound of boron per acre
(10 ounces of Solubor, which is 20% boron) should be applied through the drip
irrigation. Since boron can be toxic to plants at high levels, accurate and even
applications of boron are important. Further, annual or preventative applications of
boron should not be applied except on sandy soils where low boron has been a
documented problem.
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Organic Nutrients
There has been increasing interest particularly from organic growers regarding the
use of organic-based nutrients from manure and compost. Manure and compost
have the advantage of providing micronutrients and increasing organic matter. The
difficulty of using manure and compost is accurately calculating the nutrient
content and availability and ensuring that nutrients will be available throughout the
growing and harvesting seasons. It is unlikely that a producer can meet the nutrient
needs of the plants without applying too much of some nutrients, especially
phosphorus. A reasonable balance is to use organic nutrients for some portion of
the required nutrients and to compensate for deficiencies by utilizing commercial
For certified organic growers, alternative sources of nutrients that have been
approved for organic production must be utilized. One of the most challenging
aspects of growing everbearing strawberries organically is how to effectively add
more nutrients throughout the season and in second year plantings—this is
particularly true for plasticulture systems. Only a limited number of products that
have been approved for organic production can be applied through drip irrigation.
Raw animal manure may be readily available on farms that have animal operations
in addition to fruit and vegetable production. Although nutrients from animal
manures in these situations are very economical because they are a by-product and
do not require shipping from distant manufacturing or mining facilities, many
factors may limit the application of manure to the ground for strawberry
production. The first consideration is that manure should be applied at least 6
months prior to the first fruit harvest. Manure should not be spread on frozen
ground, thus for spring plantings, manure must be applied the fall prior to planting
the crop. For late summer and early fall planting, manure needs to be applied early
in the spring after snow has disappeared and the ground is not frozen. Raw manure
should be incorporated using primary tillage within 1 hour after manure application
if most of the ammonia in the manure is to be conserved. Since the crop cannot be
planted for 4 months (calculating fruit production will start 2 months after planting)
after the manure application, a cover crop should be planted to control soil erosion
and prevent leaching of nutrients, especially nitrogen.
Although compost can be applied to crops while they are being harvested,
realistically, producers should incorporate the compost into the soil just ahead of
bed forming and planting. Care should be taken to apply the compost with a
uniform method. Because compost is an organic nutrient, it will take a couple of
weeks for microorganisms to mineralize the nitrogen. The microorganisms require
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soil temperatures above 50°F in order to convert large amounts of nitrogen to plant
available forms. This information should prompt producers to apply and incorporate
compost into the soil 2-3 weeks before planting strawberry plants.
Calculating the nutrients available from compost and manure must begin with a lab
analysis. It is recommended that growers collect a representative sample at least 1
month before the manure or compost will be used. When using commercially
produced compost, a nutrient analysis may be available; however, manufacturers
are not required to provide this data. Once the analysis has returned from the lab,
the mineralization rate for the manure or compost must be calculated. The
mineralization rate is used only to determine the amount of nitrogen that will be
available, and will largely depend on the components that make up the manure or
compost. Manure from beef cattle that have been fed mostly hay and are on
bedding that contains a large amount of sawdust or straw will mineralize slower
than manure from poultry or hog operations where the animals are fed mostly
grains and little or no highly fibrous bedding is used. Mineralization rates are
available in other publications for some common manure types and composts. (See
“Additional Reading”). If the manure or compost is being applied to soil for the first
time the mineralization rate, the amount of material applied, and the percentage of
nitrogen in the material can be multiplied to roughly calculate the amount of
nitrogen available.
If multiple years of manure or compost have been applied to the field, the amount
of nitrogen that would have become available during previous years must be
subtracted before calculating the amount of remaining nitrogen that will become
available in the current year. Then, the amount of nitrogen that will become available
from new applications in the current year can be added. All of the phosphorus and
potassium in manure and compost will be available during the first growing season.
When growing plants in a plasticulture system, irrigation is a necessity. Everbearing
plants are expected to produce high yields in the warmest part of the year and thus
can require large amounts of water. Soil type determines the amount of water that
the soil can hold. Clay loam soils can hold between 1.75-2.5 inches of water per foot
of soil depth, compared with sandy loam soils which can hold 1.25-1.75 inches of
water per foot. Soils with higher amounts of clay can hold more water, but they also
hold water more tightly. In general, heavier soils require irrigation less frequently
than sands, but the additional amount of water that is available from a clay soil is
less than one might expect. Also, plants placed in clay soils may be stressed before
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the soil appears to be dry. Soils high in organic matter generally will require less
frequent irrigation. Irrigation systems in the eastern United States fall into two main
types: overhead and subsurface drip systems.
Overhead Irrigation
Because the plastic serves as a barrier to water infiltration, overhead irrigation in a
plasticulture system is used for purposes other than that of watering the plants.
Water applied through overhead systems in hot summer weather may be used to
decrease the plant temperature through evaporative cooling, thus decreasing plant
stress. This may be of particular value if an unusually warm spell occurs during
plant establishment. However, since using overhead irrigation wets both foliage and
fruit when used during the production season, the potential for problems with plant
diseases is increased. If plantings are kept for a second year, overhead irrigation
may be used for spring frost protection.
Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is a surface or subsurface system that delivers water to or below the
soil surface, thus eliminating most of the evaporation that makes overhead systems
inefficient. Since considerably less evaporation occurs than with sprinkler irrigation,
much less water is required—saving as much as 80% of the water compared with
other systems. Other advantages of drip irrigation include compatibility with
plasticulture, reduction of disease due to wetting of the foliage, and the ability to
easily apply soluble fertilizers throughout the growing season through the drip
irrigation system.
The soil type affects the distribution of water within the soil as it is delivered from
drip irrigation. Coarser soils with larger amounts of sand have limited lateral
movement of water from the emitters. Water applied to soils with larger amounts of
clay will move well laterally. To compensate for the various ways water moves in the
soil, growers with sandy soils should consider selecting drip tape with emitters that
are closer together (4-6 inches) and placing two drip tapes per raised bed, thus
providing for greater wetting of the entire bed. Care must be taken to ensure that
the tape is not directly in line with the planting row to avoid punctures. For growers
that have soils with higher levels of clay and/or organic matter, it is sufficient to use
one drip tape down the middle of the bed and emitters that are 12 inches apart. Drip
irrigation tape should be installed 3-4 inches below the soil surface at the time of
making beds and laying plastic.
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Choices in drip irrigation tubing are centered around the thickness of the drip tape
and the water flow rate. Drip tape that is 6-8 mil in thickness is adequate for
plantings that are expected to be used for only one growing season. Plants that are
expected to be fruited for two seasons should have 8-10 mil drip tape. The flow rate
of the drip tape will affect the amount of water that is applied in a given amount of
time; however, a range of flow rates can be used to apply a given amount of water. A
typical flow rate for drip tape is 0.45 gallons per 100 feet per minute. Another
factor to consider when selecting the drip tape is the flow rate of the water source.
To provide adequate water to the entire area that will be irrigated, the amount of
water outputted from the emitters in any area that is being watered cannot exceed
the source flow rate.
Bed Formation
When considering the distance between beds, spacing is essentially determined by
equipment. Typically, beds are on 6-8 foot centers (i.e. the distance from the center
of one bed to the center of the next is 6-8 feet). This results in 7,240 feet of
plasticulture row per acre if beds are on 6-foot centers, and 5,445 feet if beds are
on 8-foot centers.
The formation of raised beds creates many advantages for the strawberry plant
•Increased topsoil depth to overcome problematic areas such as plow pans and
poorly drained subsoils.
• The soil volume available to hold water and nutrients is increased.
• Excessive water from rainfall can easily move away from the root systems.
• Better air circulation around the plants.
The soil needs to be well-worked prior to formation of raised beds. Sod and surface
residue can make forming beds and planting difficult as well as become problematic
for later weed control.
Raised beds are formed with a variety of machines either before the plastic is
applied, or more commonly as the plastic is being laid. Usually beds are
approximately 30 inches wide. The soil which will be formed into the raised bed
must be friable and free from large clods and organic residue. The soil also should
be dry enough not to pack excessively; however, it should not be so dry that it loses
the ability to form. Obviously, in heavier soils, constructing larger beds would
require multiple passes with a bed shaper before the plastic and trickle tube is laid.
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Most beds are formed by collecting soil from a 5-6 foot wide area and forming it
through a pan type bed press. It is important that the soil is uniformly pressed in the
bed, the bed must be full, and the center should be somewhat crowned (i.e., higher in
the middle, to run excess water off the plastic). Otherwise, pockets will form under the
plastic, and water will collect in puddles on the plastic rather than draining to the
sides, resulting in fruit “rainspotting” and fungal infection of the fruit.
Fig. 3.9 Forming the bed and laying plastic and drip tape.
The raised bed configuration is generally determined by the size of the bed maker.
Cooler sites, particularly those with very low winter temperature, typically have
lower beds—this may keep the plants from being exposed as much during the winter.
However, it should be noted that the height of beds is not always correlated with
latitude. Beds in Quebec are usually higher than beds in Appalachia (400 miles
south). Perhaps bed height is more correlated with ease of soil “bedding,”
particularly with the amount of larger rocks present in the Appalachian Highlands
or the depth of the topsoil.
Plastic mulch is applied to the bed at the time the bed is formed or immediately
afterwards. Plastic mulch can be a very effective for controlling weeds provided
that (1) care is taken when applying the mulch, and (2) holes have not been created
in the mulch by pickers and critters such as deer and dogs.
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Commercial plastic mulch is available in a variety of colors and thicknesses ranging
from 0.5-1.5 mil. Since everbearing strawberries remain in the field for at least 6
months, a minimum of 1 mil plastic should be used. If there are expectations that
the planting may be extending throughout winter for a second season, 1.5 mil plastic
should be considered. Plastic is available as smooth or embossed. Embossed
plastics usually stretch more effectively over beds and do not expand and contract
as much as smooth ones. Expansion and contraction of plastic contributes to
loosening of mulch from raised beds.
Plastic mulch is available in a variety of colors. Standard black plastic is used for the
majority of vegetable production; therefore, it is readily available and less expensive
than other colors. Black plastic has the advantage of collecting much of the solar
radiation which substantially warms the soil and results in earlier production. Heat
is moved into the soil through conduction; consequently, it is important that the
plastic is tight against the bed. Black plastic with planting holes has been shown to
raise the temperature of the soil 3-5°F over bare soils.
Fig. 3.10 Reflective aluminum plastic mulch.
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Despite the advantage of warming the soil early in the season to maintain
everbearing strawberry fruit production during the summer months, the plants—
including the root systems must be kept as cool as possible. White on black and
aluminized reflective mulches have been shown to reduce soil temperatures by
3-4˚F more than black plastic, which results in soil temperatures similar to that of
bare ground. In an evaluation of black, white, and aluminized plastic in Garrett
County, Maryland, black plastic warmed the soil in the early spring which resulted in
a slight increase in early fruit production. In the heat of summer, however, fruit
production on aluminized plastic was significantly higher than on black plastic.
Although differences in overall annual production were insignificant between the
colors of plastic, the increased production during hot summer months, when local
production of strawberries is limited, can result in higher income, therefore
justifying the extra cost of more expensive aluminized plastic. In hotter climates,
the advantages of using aluminized plastic to reduce summer soil temperatures and
increase plant performance are expected to be greater.
Plant Establishment
Two to three days prior to planting, growers must ensure that the irrigation system
is working and that the bed is thoroughly wetted. Typically this is accomplished by
turning on the trickle irrigation system, and allowing it to run until the soil has been
visibly wetted just to the outside of the bed. Since the drip tape may be installed in
the middle of the bed it may take many hours—typically at least 3-4 hours in order
to wet the soil laterally until the plants can be planted. Wetting the beds 2-3 days
before planting allows the soil to drain prior to planting, so that the soil is moist but
not muddy.
Planting Dormant Bare Root Plant Material
Dormant bare-root plants can be easily planted by placing the roots on the plastic
and pushing the plant through a pre-punched hole in the plastic into the soil with a
flat stick, such as a thick wooden paint stirring stick, a dandelion digger, or an
asparagus knife. After the roots have been inserted, growers must ensure that the
bottom of the crown of the plant is just under the soil level. If the growing point in
the center of the crown is covered, the plants will likely rot. The plants should have
overhead water applied shortly after planting if the weather is hot. Once plants
begin vegetative growth, plants must be protected from temperatures below 25°F.
The best method for protecting the plants is to cover them with floating row covers.
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Fig. 3.11.1 Bare root plant with planting stick.
Fig. 3.11.2 Push the plant through the plastic by placing the
stick about 1/3 way up the plants root system.
Fig. 3.11.3 Push the plant in until the crown is just below the
Fig. 3.11.4 Properly planted bare root plant.
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Above: Fig. 3.11.5 Bare root planting
1 week after planting.
Left: Fig. 3.11.6 Bare root planting
2 weeks after planting.
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Flower trusses should be removed for 2-3 weeks after dormant field-planted plants
begin to flower in order to allow the plant to establish and have leaf surface to
support later fruit production. Otherwise the plant’s vigor will suffer, total fruit
production will be reduced, and the plant will be less able to withstand attack by
diseases or insects. To compensate for the loss of fruit by flower removal, it is
recommended to plant dormant plants 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
Planting Plug Plants
Small numbers of plug plants can be planted by hand using a trowel or dibble to
create a hole in the plastic to set the plug. Larger plantings can be planted with
a water wheel planter that punctures the plastic, and creates a hole which fills
with water. The grower riding the planter should push the plug into the hole. Usual
planting dates for setting plug plants in the field are 3-4 weeks before the last
expected frost date. Before planting, growers must ensure that there is a period of
at least 3 days when frost is not expected and preferably, the ground temperature
is >50˚F at a 3-inch depth. Flowers should be removed from plants while they are
in trays (see “Types of Plants and Plant Sources” for directions on producing plug
plants). Flower removal from plug plants once planted in the field is not necessary.
In a study in Garrett County, Maryland, fruit size and yield per plant were compared
between plants that had blossoms removed
for 0, 2, and 4 weeks after planting. Plants
that had their blossoms removed after field
planting did not have significantly larger
fruit size or higher total yield. In fact, the
removal of blossoms delayed the harvest
of the first fruit. The only reason producers
may wish to remove blossoms from plug
plants is if they want to delay fruiting;
however, this would generally defeat the
initial purpose of producing plug plants.
Fig. 3.12 Planting plugs using a water wheel planter.
Fig. 3.13 Strawberry plug planted with water wheel planter.
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Managing the plant density in a plasticulture planting is accomplished by changing
not only the spacing between beds, but also the spacing on each bed. More plants
produce more fruit; however, at some point the planting will become too dense, and
cause less air flow and increased disease incidence. Double rows on each bed are
typically used. Plants should be 12 inches apart within each of the double rows and
placed in a staggered pattern. If plant vigor is high, due to either site or cultivar,
growers may wish to increase in-row spacings to 16 inches apart. Although little
research has been conducted regarding plant spacings for everbearers in the East,
some vigorous cultivars such as Evie 2 may increase vegetative growth in response
to wider spacings, but not produce more fruit. (See Table 3.1 for plant populations
per acre).
Table 3.1
Number of Strawberry Plants per Acre at Different Bed and In-row Spacing
Bed spacing (distance from center of one bed to the center of
the next)
5 feet
6 feet
7 feet
8 feet
12 inches
14 inches
16 inches
18 inches
In-row spacing*
*Signifies spacing between plants within each row of a staggered double row.
Fig. 3.14 Example of properly spaced
strawberries on black plastic mulch.
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Planting Care
After plants are in the ground, the main tasks consist of keeping the plants wellwatered, fertilized and harvested. Insect and disease management is discussed
separately in a later chapter.
Many factors affect the amount of water that should be applied, including the rate
of plant growth, plant size and crop load, weather conditions, and soil type. 1-2
inches of water per week is generally sufficient, with lesser amounts applied early
or late in the season, and higher amounts applied during warm spells and when the
crop load is heavy. Example calculations are provided in Table 3.2 that will allow
growers to calculate the length of time that the system needs to be operated to
apply 1 inch of water, and flow rate (gallons of water per minute) from the drip tape
emitters. If the required flow rate is higher than the flow rate the grower’s water
source can actually provide, the grower will need to divide the irrigation area into
zones and water them at different times.
The producer must monitor the plants during periods of high temperatures and
high yields, and determine when additional water is needed. Irrigation should be
administered at frequent enough intervals to keep the moisture supply even. In the
following example, running the irrigation for 2-3 times per week is reasonable.
Given the information in the preceding discussion and the understanding that a
fertilization program should be customized for each operation, Table 3.3 contains
a sample fertilization program for spring planted annual everbearing strawberries.
From Table 3.3, it can be determined that a small sized planting of everbearing
strawberries require small amounts of fertilizer per 1,000 plants. It is recommended
that growers have a small scale such as a postal scale for weighing accurate
amounts of granular and soluble fertilizers.
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Table 3.2 Irrigation Example
Irrigation Calculating Needed Source Flow Rate and Irrigation Time
• 1 acre of strawberries
• Beds are on 6-foot centers that are 30 inches wide
• 1 drip tape per raised bed
•Drip tape with a flow rate of 0.45 gallons per 100 ft per minute (a common flow
rate) if the irrigation system is operated in the recommended pressure range of
10-12 psi.
•1 acre-inch of water (the amount of water it takes to cover 1 acre with 1 inch) is
equivalent to 27,154 gallons.
Step 1: Determine how much drip tape is needed in the grower’s field.
The amount of drip tape in 1 acre can be calculated by dividing the number of
square feet in 1 acre (43,560) by the bed spacing.
43,560 sq ft per acre / 6 ft = 7,250 ft of row, and thus 7,250 ft of tape
Step 2: Determine the delivery rate for the length of drip tape.
7,250 ft. of row X 0.45 gallons per 100 ft per minute = 33 gallons per minute
Step 3: Determine the number of zones needed.
If the source flow rate is at least the assumed 0.45 gallons per 100 ft per minute,
water the entire field (allow for the fact that some water will be lost through leaks).
If the source flow rate is less than the assumed 0.45 gallons per 100 ft per minute,
divide the flow rate of the trickle tape by the source flow rate, and round up to the
next highest number to determine the number of zones.
For example, if in Step 2, 33 gallon per minute was needed and the source well
produces 12 gallons per minute, 33/12 = 2.75 zones, which would be rounded up to 3
Step 4: Calculate the amount of water needed to deliver 1 inch to 100 ft. of row.
If beds are 30 inches (2.5 ft) wide, the area watered by 100 ft of drip tape is 250 sq
ft Therefore:
27,154 gallons X 250 sq ft X 1 acre = 156 gallons/100 ft of tape
100 ft of tape 43,560 sq ft
Step 5: Calculate how long the irrigation must run to apply 1 inch.
156 gallons per 100 ft ÷ by 0.45 gallons per 100 ft per minute = 346 minutes or 5.8
hours to apply 1 inch of water over a bed 30 inches wide.
Thus, for each inch of water to be applied to the area or a zone, the irrigation must
be run for 5.8 hours after the lines are filled.
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Table 3.3 Fertilizer Example
Fertilization Example for Annual Spring-Planted Everbearing Strawberries
• Plug plants are planted in early May.
• Fruit production starts on June 15 and ends on September 30.
• 1 acre is planted with an expected yield of 20,000 pounds of fruit.
Crop Requirements per Acre
For this example, nitrogen amounts are based on current recommendations, and
phosphorus and potassium amounts are based on results of a hypothetical soil test.
90 lb of Nitrogen (N) – Split Application
60 lb preplant incorporated
30 lb applied through the drip irrigation system.
53 lb of phosphate (P2O5)
71 lb of potash (K2O)
A portion of these nutrients are applied through the drip system, with the remaining
amounts preplant incorporated.
Vegetative Growth — first 6 Weeks
2 lb of N/acre is applied each week, half as 20-20-20 and half as calcium nitrate.
Additional P2O5 and K2O as included in the fertilizer sources are also applied.
To provide 1 lb of N/week, 5 pounds of 20-20-20 is used per week per acre (1 ÷ .20)
6 weeks X 5 lb of 20-20-20 provides 6 lb of N, 6 lb of P2O5 and 6 pounds of K2O
Calcium Nitrate (15.5-0-0)
1 lb N/week divided by .155 = 6.5 lb of calcium nitrate per week per acre
6 weeks X 6.5 lb of Calcium Nitrate provides 6 lb of N
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Fruiting Period – 16 weeks
1 lb of N/acre is applied each week. In order to provide the large amounts of
potassium used during fruit ripening, a 9-15-30 soluble fertilizer is used as the
nutrient source.
To provide 1 lb of N/week, 11 pounds of 9-15-30 is used per week per acre (1 ÷ .09)
16 weeks X 11 lb pounds of 9-15-30 provides 16 lb of N, 26.4 lb of P2O5, and 52.8 lb of
The nutrients that will be provided by soluble fertilizer during the vegetative and
fruiting periods are:
28 lb of N
32 lb of P2O5
59 lb of K2O
Refresher: The recommended amount of nutrients per acre was 90 lb of N, 53 lb of
P2O5, and 71 lb of K2O
The remaining amount of nutrients to be provided is
62 lb of N
21 lb of P2O5
12 lb of K2O
These nutrients will be applied preplant incorporated.
Providing the Remaining Nutrients — Preplant Incorporated
19-19-19 is a common fertilizer found at most agriculture dealers, so it can be used
as the starting point for the preplant incorporated fertilizer. Start with the nutrient
needed in the smallest quantity, in this case K2O.
To apply 12 pounds of K2O, 64 pounds of 19-19-19 (12.2 ÷ 0.19) is needed. This also
applies 12 pounds of N and P2O5, which require an additional:
50 pounds of N
9 pounds of P2O5
This can be applied as 109 pounds of urea (46-0-0) and 19 pounds of triple
superphosphate (0-44-0). To calculate:
50 pounds of N ÷ 0.46 = 109 pounds of urea
9 pounds of P2O5 ÷ 0.44 = 20 pounds of triple superphosphate
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Summary of Fertilization Plan
Preplant incorporated per acre
109 lb of urea (46-0-0)
20 lb of triple superphosphate (0-46-0)
64 lb of 19-19-19
Fertigation through drip irrigation per acre
Weeks 1-6:
5 lb 20-20-20 per week/acre
6 lb of Calcium Nitrate per week/acre
Weeks 7-22:
11 lb of 9-15-30 per acre/week
Rates for smaller plots or multiple zone systems—based on 15,000 plants per acre
Divide the fertilizer rates on the per acre bases according to the size (% of an acre)
or number of plants.
Example 1 – 1000 plants
1,000 plants divided by 15,000 plants/acre = .067 acre or 6.7% of an acre
Multiply each amount by .067.
Preplant incorporated per acre
7.3 lb of urea (46-0-0)
1.3 lb of triple superphosphate (0-46-0)
4.3 lb of 19-19-19
Fertigation through drip irrigation per acre
Weeks 1-6:
0.34 lb (5.4 oz) of 20-20-20 per week/acre
0.44 lb (7.0 oz) of calcium nitrate per week/acre
Weeks 7-22:
0.74 lb (11.8 oz) of 9-15-30 per acre/week
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Weed Management
In the plasticulture system, when effective pre-plant weed control is established,
the greatest concern for weed control will be the bare soil areas between the rows
of plastic. Although weeds growing between the rows are not competing with the
strawberries for water or nutrients, they reduce air flow which results in problems
with plant diseases. This makes harvesting more difficult, and increases seed banks
for future years and also may provide habitat for harmful insects. Weed growth
between rows can be controlled in a number of ways. Chemical herbicides can
be applied to the soil between the rows after the plastic is laid. Straw and other
organic mulches also can be effective. Growers must apply 2-4 inches of material
to sufficiently block light and prevent weed growth. Mowing or weed-whacking
also can control weed growth; however, significant labor and care must be taken to
prevent damage to the plastic. Planting low growing grasses or legumes is another
option for weed control; however, the grower must establish a good early stand
before weed growth occurs. Unfortunately, some legume crops also may attract
insects such as tarnished plant bugs.
Fig. 3.15 Straw used as a weed barrier mulch between rows.
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Harvest and Postharvest Care
The majority of everbearing strawberry harvesting is completed by the grower,
with berries sold on-site at a farmstand or at farmers markets. At this time, “Pickyour-own” production of everbearing strawberries is limited. Some growers report
a difference in consumer acceptance in different circumstances. Consumers who
are familiar with traditional harvest seasons for various types of fruit may be
less accepting of “off-season” strawberries and may be ready to sample other
traditional crops later in the summer and fall. In situations where berries can
be marketed to a cross-section of consumers, such as at farmers markets, sales
may fare better. In any event, having sufficient labor to keep fruit well-picked is a
Since everbearing strawberries can produce fruit over a period of months,
conditions at harvest time will vary greatly. When possible, harvest in the morning
or evening when internal fruit temperatures are the lowest. Fruit is usually fieldsorted, which is facilitated greatly by having “metal stands” or tables to hold picking
trays. Fruit should be placed in shallow containers no deeper than 4 inches and
should not be allowed to sit in the direct sun after harvest. Fruit quality is superior
when the strawberries are harvested at least 3 times per week; daily harvest may
be required for the best quality and highest marketable yield. Fruit should be picked
slightly unripe if the grower plans to ship the fruit. Labor required for frequent
harvest may present some difficulty. The price that can be obtained for the fruit
must be sufficiently high to cover labor costs.
Once the fruit is harvested it must be stored in a cool location. If the fruit is held
longer than 24 hours, it should be cooled to 32-33°F and kept at 90% humidity.
Growers should not place the fruit in a standard refrigerator because the low
humidity will remove moisture from the fruit. The best method to cool very small
volumes of fruit is to place a couple inches of ice in the bottom of an ice chest, then
place a board on top of the ice, and finally place the containers of strawberries on
top of the board. Growers should not remove the containers from the ice chest
until sold or transferred to another container. Fruit removed from cold storage will
“sweat” which will cause fruit to deteriorate quickly.
A Second Growing Year
In areas with a short growing season and other areas selected by growers, a second
(or perhaps third) growing season may be coaxed out of a plasticulture everbearing
strawberry bed. Growers should be aware that disease and insect pests typically will
increase over time. Generally, in cooler climates, especially with suitable varieties,
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the second year production will be higher than first year production. The first crop
of the second year will have the largest fruit. Plants will be larger, which can make
picking difficult and significantly increase disease. It is very likely that fruit size will
decrease after the first harvest cycle in the second year. Also, vigorous plants may
be difficult to manage.
In Chapter 1, the less intense winter dormancy of everbearing cultivars was
discussed. Unfortunately, very few actions can change this natural weakness, except
using standard straw or floating row cover protection in the field. Everbearers are
typically a little more susceptible to winter injury than Mid-Atlantic June-bearing
varieties, but are not quite as susceptible as some Florida varieties. Some varieties
(e.g. Evie 2) can develop enough hardiness to survive Quebec winters.
Primarily, winter mulching is completed to maintain strawberry crowns and roots at
a temperature of approximately 32˚F. Straw usually keeps the plants colder, while
floating row cover allows enough light through to maintain a healthy leaf surface.
All other factors being equal for the June-bearers (especially the mulch removal
date), the straw mulched plants will ripen later. The additional “healthy leaf” time
for photosynthesis under floating row cover will strengthen the plant and should
result in a larger spring yield. Photosynthesis measurements indicate that initially
the row covered plants use the reduced light under cover with relative efficiency.
After 4 weeks, the heavy shade, cold temperatures (and frost), and shortening
day-lengths gradually impact the photosynthetic mechanism and photosynthesis
in plants in December; this occurrence may be less significant in the northeastern
United States and Mid-West. Photosynthesis does not occur to any extent on red
or yellow leaves. Therefore, leaves can resume functioning even after experiencing
temperatures in the lower 20˚F’s, provided that adequate acclimation is given. After
leaf temperatures are in the teens, there is no reason to protect the leaves from the
cold; however, crowns will continue to need protection.
For floating row covers in June-bearers, the goal is to prolong photosynthesis as
long as possible in order to increase the strength of the plants; another aspect
of the goal is to protect the crown and roots from cold injury. For everbearers, a
June or spring crop may be desirable, but it is not the sum total of production.
A small spring crop may be more desirable because it allows larger or earlier
mid-summer crops. Given the lighter dormancy of everbearers, and the fact that
temperatures under row covers can become very warm and potentially delay
onset of cold hardiness, it may prove effective to increase the management of row
covers for everbearers. Although the University of Maryland Extension is not aware
of any work that has been conducted in this area, it may be advisable and more
advantageous to delay the use of covers to allow earlier frosting of the everbearer
leaves and greater cold acclimation. To further reduce the growth of everbearers,
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the removal of the covers during December warm spells is recommended more for
everbearers than June-bearers—which should be deeper in dormancy. In any case,
the amount and timing of the spring crop for everbearers, as well as June-bearers,
can be altered somewhat by winter protection management. In general, floating
row covers are an additional requirement for winter protection because they reduce
wind desiccation.
For additional protection in very cold locations (USDA Hardiness Zones 5b and
colder), straw mulch applied when soil temperatures at a 4-inch depth under the
row covers drop to 40˚F has been utilized successfully. However, keeping the straw
mulch on the plastic mulch is difficult without using a row cover. In these locations,
removing the row cover, placing the straw, and replacing the row cover over the
straw to keep it in place has worked quite well. Once the plants are covered with
straw, the plant no longer receives any sunlight to form branch crowns or flower
buds. Therefore, this technique is only recommended for marginally cold sites. Next,
the straw should be removed from the beds and placed in the walkways as soon as
the plants resume growth (or soil temperatures reach 40˚F at 4 inches deep), and
the row covers alone pulled back. Row covers should be removed as soon as the
plants begin to bloom. The plants must be covered again if frost is forecast.
For everbearers, spring frost protection is not as critical as for June-bearers,
primarily because the spring crop does not comprise the entirety of annual
production. Either 1-2 layers of row covers can be used, depending on anticipated
low temperatures, or overhead irrigation if needed. The topic of frost protection is
discussed in detail in the Mid-Atlantic Berry Guide for Commercial Growers.
Fig. 3.16 Fruit on second year Albion plants in late May in Garrett County, Maryland.
C h a p t e r 4
A l t e r n a t i v e C u l t u r a l S y s t e m s f o r
G r o w i n g E v e r b e a r e r s : a n O v e r v i e w
Everbearing strawberries can be grown in a plethora of growing systems. While the
vast majority of the everbearing strawberries around the world are grown by inground raised-bed plasticulture production methods, which were discussed in detail
in Chapter 3, this chapter explores and explains other potential methods borrowed
from June-bearer production and observations around the world.
Matted Row Traditional System
Everbearing strawberries can be grown in traditional matted row systems using
the similar production practices to June-bearers. Matted rows have advantages,
including plant costs that are roughly two-thirds or less. Bare ground makes it
easier to renovate plants, although in a more limited way than with June-bearers,
either by tossing some soil around the crown to stimulate summer root growth and/
or by trimming leaves in the second year before the hot summer months. Matted
rows rely on new runners each year; therefore, it’s unnecessary for growers to
worry about plants becoming too complex and growing too many crowns. Each year,
the renovation should be designed to eliminate mother plants from previous years.
Older varieties of everbearers did not originally produce sufficient runners to fill in
matted row beds; also, they were too expensive to propagate. Modern everbearers
do runner and, thus, the price of nursery-grown dormant everbearer plants have
dropped nearly to that of June-bearer plants. Newer everbearing cultivars can
create a matted row in suitable locations.
There are several issues which make it difficult to grow everbearers in matted rows
or planting systems that take advantage of runnering when planted at low densities.
A primary concern is weed control, with similar concerns to June-bearers grown
in matted rows. Since fruit is picked the first year, the grower must be mindful of
herbicide pre-harvest interval period restrictions or mechanical tillage must be
faithfully practiced with precision and patience.
The phase-out of methyl bromide and growing interest in organic/sustainable
approaches to strawberry production has led to the exploration of alternatives
to fumigation for controlling weeds and soil-borne pathogens. In the past, soil
solarization (tarping newly tilled soil for 4 weeks to cause the soil to superheat or
“pasteurize”) and rotation with Brassicas (rape, mustard and broccoli) that produce
natural fumigant chemicals (isothiocyanates) and allelopathic plants such as rye
have been explored as possible soil fumigants and weed control methods. None of
these methods alone were as effective and long-lasting as fumigation; however, an
integrated approach using a combination of these methods may prove promising.
During the last 5 years of testing in Colorado and Maryland, the incorporation
of spring-planted Brassicas was followed immediately with clear or black plastic
tarp solarization for 4 weeks. This approach has shown promise for weed control.
Incorporation and tarping are completed during mid to late summer (typically
August 1), and certainly before seed set in the Brassica. In most cases, where the
tarping was completed on moist soil, the use of Dwarf Essex rapeseed or Caliente
mustard (20 lbs seed per acre) and solarization resulted in a reduction of the weed
seedbank. This manifests itself as lower weed germination the following spring.
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the reduction of spring weed biomass was
over 80%. Whereas most of this research was conducted with clear plastic tarps,
another practical approach is to use a plastic mulch layer with black plastic
immediately after the rapeseed is incorporated into the soil. The effectiveness of
the procedure in other areas and during other years is not guaranteed; however,
there are residual herbicides and other fumigants available. If tilled-under rape is
followed by immediate solarization, the use of biofumigation may not be expensive—
primarily it would be comprised of the cost of the seeds, plastic, and tillage.
Fig. 4.1 Brassica crop being rototilled for soil solarization, note the plastic tarps on the right which
are being used for soil solarization.
Oddly, everbearing strawberries create their own weed problem. Modern
everbearers fruit in the same year, if planted during the spring. Unlike June-bearers,
seed is continuously produced by everbearing plants, which means either fruit
picking or flower removal is recommended. Leaving the fruit on the plant weakens
the plant and encourages seed production. Strawberry seeds may germinate and
grow. Juvenile seedling strawberries runner faster than adult cultivars and fill the
matted row. Juveniles may not be everbearers and generally produce inferior fruit.
If they are available at a reasonable price, tissue culture produced everbearers do
not produce a lot of flowers for the first 15 weeks out of culture. Further, this period
of non-flowering and rapid runnering can be extended with the use of the natural
hormone, gibberellic acid.
Another factor in matted row establishment is the rooting of daughter plants.
Either tilled bare ground must be exposed or expensive and time-consuming handpegging must be completed using straw or other mulch in order for the runners to
root. Because runners must be established during the same time as fruit is being
harvested, bare ground can result in dirty fruit that is more likely to have soft rot.
The use of straw mulch and early establishment works well in regions that are
too hot for mid-summer production. This requires early planting and ample care
throughout the spring and summer. In late August, growers should apply straw to
achieve a clean fall crop because the late runners cannot root through the straw
and are generally unproductive. The second year’s crop will be more productive,
assuming that the straw will remain in place and the slugs are controlled.
Another option for matted rows that does not rely on runners for a full bed,
is placing plants closer together, with plants 5-10 inches apart in the row. An
efficient planting design is a staggered double row with plants set 7 inches apart,
offset 4 inches from center, with rows 4 feet or less apart. Runners must be
removed throughout the first season and flowers should be removed for the first
6 weeks after planting. Growers should use 4 inches of clean straw to prevent
large fluctuations in moisture availability and temperature. During the first year,
everbearing strawberries fruit from mid-August through the first hard frost.
Additionally, they produce three crops in subsequent years.
Plasticulture—Alternative Planting Times
Although plasticulture systems were discussed in Chapter 3, the focus was largely
regarding spring plantings. Manipulating the planting time can accomplish fruit
production at times of the year when local fruit can be sold for high prices.
Fall Planting
If plants are available and the risk and cost of winter protection can be unfailingly
justified, fall plantings are more productive in regions with less than 2,500 growing
degree days such as the Appalachian Highlands, Northern and Central New England,
the Adirondacks, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and surrounding Wisconsin (Door
Co.), Minnesota, and the intermountain western plateaus and valleys above 6,000
to 7,000 feet elevation. Each of these areas is Zone 5 or lower; therefore, winter
protection is a serious consideration.
Choosing a fall planting date may be complicated; however, the fall planting date
should be early enough for plants to attain winter hardiness. During the fall,
plug plant photosynthetic rates drop approximately 6 weeks after planting. This
occurrence may indicate the plant’s ability to acclimate to the lower metabolic rates
of dormancy; therefore, at this point, the plant should be considered as established
sufficiently for development of cold hardiness. If leaves are hardy at 22˚F, then
the latest planting date should be no later than 3 weeks prior to the first frost;
this will fall approximately around September 1 in most of the above-mentioned
locations. This later planting date allows propagation of greater numbers of runners
for plug plants and the possibility of larger or hardened fresh-dug plants. With
later planting dates, the weather is usually cooler and the sun doesn’t superheat
the plastic as much. Floating row covers can be used to protect these plants, and
should be available shortly after planting to protect against any frosts within 3
days of planting. Newly set fresh-dug or plug plants that are not pre-hardened
are especially susceptible to frosts. Be advised that fresh-dug plants require 6-10
days overhead irrigation to prevent wilting during establishment and take an extra
couple of weeks to catch up to plug plants. Therefore, plug plants may be preferable
for later planting dates.
The case for earlier planting is one of safety and diversity of planting stock. Earlier
set plants are more developed by the end of the season and able to withstand frost
heaving and dehydration. If it takes an extra 2 weeks for a fresh-dug to catch up to
a plug plant, then earlier planting dates will allow for use of both types of planting
stock. Spring crop yield is theoretically higher because the size of the plant, and
number of crowns, is considerably higher when plants are planted earlier. Growers
should consider that early plantings, either as plugs or fresh-dugs (which may not
be available at all) are more stressed from mid-summer heat. Although it is less of
a problem with everbearers, summer planted (July to mid-August planted) material
can produce runners.
If fresh-dug plants are available sufficiently early, the choice of whether to use
fresh- dug versus plug plants often is further determined by the soil type and
irrigation ability of the grower. If a grower has lighter soils and a ready supply of
overhead irrigation, then the fresh-dugs are an option as the excess water does not
flood the field. If the grower has a heavier soil and/or less water, plugs, or at the
least removing the larger leaves from fresh-dugs to reduce transpiration, are the
only options.
Typically, plug plants are not readily available or economically priced due to
shipping to locations which can take advantage of fall plantings. A Northeast
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)-funded project in Garrett
County, Maryland, researched the feasibility of conducting on-farm propagation
of plug plants for fall plantings. As conducted in Europe with everbearers, tissue
culture mother plants were used to produce runners through the summer and then
the runners were propagated for fall planting. These temporarily juvenile (quicker
runnering, non-flowering) tissue culture plants were planted in plastic rain gutters
with a thin layer of perlite on the bottom and peat/perlite potting soil with the
“light” rate of slow release fertilizer in May. The plants were planted 8 inches apart
and two of the rain gutters were placed back to back. The plants were treated with
gibberellic acid and any flowers that developed were removed. The rain gutters
were placed on stands about 6 feet off the ground with runners hanging over the
sides. In August, the runners were removed and runner tips were placed in 50 cell
trays. Due to typical hot dry weather and the fact that most farms would not have
mist chambers, the newly planted tips were placed in a shady area and covered first
with a layer of clear plastic and then with a light layer of translucent “floating” row
cover. The plants were mist-watered daily.
Propagation of the plug plants takes about 4 weeks to establish a solidly rooted
plug. After attempting to establish plug plants for 2 years, the farmer finally was
able to create between 10-15 plugs per tissue culture plant. The cost to create the
plugs was approximately $0.30 per plant compared with fresh-dug plants at $0.18
per plant. Plug plants planted in the fall had nearly 100% survivability compared
with fresh-dug plants at about 66% survivability. As usual, the fresh-dug plants
required overhead irrigation for 10 days. The plugs only required “watering in” by
water wheel or overhead irrigation. The grower’s production was lower than what
was obtained by nurseries in Europe and the cost of the plug plants would be lower
if production were to improve to 25-40 plugs per tissue culture plant. This is likely
possible with a more experienced grower and more controlled conditions during
runnering. Tunnel or greenhouse production in cooler areas and an earlier start in
March should yield improvements.
In warmer areas, shading and cooling the propagation area would be required;
however, the grower can let the plants runner later in the year because the planting
date is later.
On-farm plug production should only be considered if the grower has the time and
expertise to complete this high-quality process.
Fig. 4.2 Producing runners in elevated gutters.
Summer Plantings
Mid-summer planting with dormant plants is a production practice in California. A
fall crop may be too late for most production regions with less than 2,500 growing
degree days and above 2,500 foot elevation. However, in warmer climates, growers
may produce during the fall—either outdoors in the cooler pre-frost weather, or
protected during frost events with floating row covers to extend production, or in
tunnels. If everbearing or some June-bearing varieties (e.g. Festival) are planted
early enough in mid-summer (July or August) by using plug plants produced from
dormant plants, a late summer-initiated fall crop may be possible in October to
December; particularly in areas along the southern coasts and lower elevation areas
in the intermountain region of the West. When everbearers are used, it is advisable
to remove flower trusses during hot weather. If that crop fails from early frost
damage, the spring and summer crops in the following year will still be available.
Spring flowering of everbearer cultivars can be very early if forced; however, it usually
occurs during the same season as June-bearing types. Because their dormancy is less
intense, flowers sometimes grow through the winter, under conditions which are not
favorable for photosynthesis. This results in poor anther development and symptoms
of frost injury such as cat-facing and puckering. In general the The Mid-Atlantic Berry
Guide for Commercial Growers recommendations for summer-planted June-bearers
in a plasticulture system apply to everbearing culture.
Everbearing Production in High Tunnels
High tunnels are becoming popular and profitable around the world. Tunnel
production for fresh market is a standard in Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico,
and other countries where price and production allow it. Where tunnels are used,
rain damage is eliminated, pest severity is reduced, the crop is earlier, and weed
control can be simplified. Yet, it may not be beneficial to use tunnels for summer
production of everbearers in most sections of the United States. Certainly, midsummer temperatures must be low enough (<85˚F) to keep the tunnels from
overheating the plants. This limits the use of tunnels for summer strawberry
production to a few regions in the United States: Mountain Appalachia, northern
New England, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the Great Lakes, and in the
higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. In most of the eastern United States,
Fig. 4.3 Everbearing strawberries produced in high tunnels in the Netherlands.
Fig. 4.4 Everbearing strawberries produced in a vertical system in high tunnels.
the use of tunnels to extend the season in the fall and early spring or winter is
more appropriate than use for summer production. The high temperatures reached
in high tunnels during the summer are not conducive to strawberry production,
making the amount of fruit produced relatively low for the effort and cost.
Strawberries can be grown in high tunnels using production methods similar to
those used for field production. Soil preparation and planting are completed as for
field production, with the exception that narrower beds and/or closer bed spacing
can be used to allow more strawberry plants to fit in the tunnel. Plants should be
well watered. Care during the spring is similar to that of field production, with the
exception that pollinators may need to be introduced since resident pollinators
are not likely to be active when the plants start to bloom. Bumble bees or mason
bees have been used successfully for pollination, but care must be taken to keep
temperatures within a range they can survive. Honey bees may be used, but they
often become disoriented in the tunnel.
Disease and insect complexes are different in the tunnel than they are in the field.
If the tunnel is kept covered, certain diseases such as gray mold and various leaf
spots are likely less problematic. Powdery mildew; however, is likely to be a problem.
Two-spotted spider mites are usually problematic, therefore monitoring should
be continual from the time of planting onward. Predatory mites provide effective
control when released while spider mite populations are still low (i.e., fewer than
20 mites on a few isolated leaves). When tunnels have been kept closed during the
winter, it creates mild soil conditions, and soil-dwelling insects such as sowbugs
and earwigs may build to high populations. On occasion, they become a fruitfeeding pest, causing losses of marketable fruit. Interpretation of which pesticides
can be used in tunnels varies from state to state. In most cases, pesticides used in
greenhouse production or pesticides that don’t specify “field production use only”
can be used. However, state regulations should be checked.
High Tunnels for Summer Production
In the mountains of Appalachia, at 2,600-foot elevation, spring-planted Evie 2 plug
plants produced 1.5 pounds of fruit in a high tunnel the first year as part of a SARE
study. The crop in a high tunnel fruits earlier, but field-grown plants produce higher
yields during late summer. Throughout the growing season, the yields are the same.
At the Appalachian study site, average yearly rainfall tops 50 inches. In the field,
frequent precipitation may cause Botrytis and other fungi and prevent harvest of
sound fruit, even with proper use of fungicides. Tunnels reduce this problem by
eliminating fungal spread by rain splash. One grower had more sound fruit from
a 20 x 60 foot tunnel than from 1/3 acre of field production. Significant additional
income can be made from high tunnel production in markets where strawberries
command $3.00 per pound and growers can produce 1.5 pounds of saleable fruit
per plant. Consistent weekly production is also very important when wholesale
marketing to retail outlets.
High tunnels also will allow the use of bare root plants in spring since soil
preparation can be completed at any time inside of the tunnel. Planting bare root
plants should be completed by the first of April or much earlier if possible every
year. With the additional heat units from the high tunnel, an early planting of bare
root plants will start producing at about the same time as outdoor plug plants
planted later in the spring. A cost saving of approximately 66% or $0.20 per plant
will be achieved using bare root plants. While this cost savings does not justify the
cost of the high tunnel, when combined with additional income from saleable fruit it
will make using the tunnel more profitable.
Another factor to consider will be the type of high tunnel required for summer
strawberry production. Typical four-season high tunnels cost $2.00 to $3.00 per
square foot. Three-season field type high tunnels designed for rain protection
are available for a little more than $1.00 per square foot. With these tunnels, the
plastic would be placed during the early spring at planting time and removed during
the fall. This type of tunnel provides rain protection, thus increasing the quality
and quantity of fruit sold. With fruit prices as low as $2.00 per pound and total
production at 1.5 pounds per plant, a 20% increase in saleable yield would more
than justify the cost of the tunnel, especially during rainy seasons when 50% of
strawberries from outside production are non-salable fruit.
Late Fall and Early Spring Production
In warmer climate areas high tunnels allow for late fall and early spring production.
High tunnels can be used to protect against frost and provide additional heat units.
Bare root plants planted during mid-summer will begin to produce fruit in the early
fall. These plants will continue to produce until late fall. Growers must be ready to
cover plants with floating row covers on nights where temperatures fall below 25˚F,
or possibly higher if the tunnel is not well-sealed.
With respect to the occurrence of overwintering, plants will greatly benefit from
floating row covers or rolled styrofoam covered with white plastic—which is typical
of nursery stock protection. The tunnel is usually closed in—that is, the ends are
sealed and the sides are rolled down. If the temperature in the tunnel exceeds
60˚F, venting should be initiated, either by rolling the sides up or operating a fan.
Most often, this treatment keeps the leaves alive and potentially photosynthetically
active through the winter as well as ensures a large crop in the spring. In the
United Kingdom, a floating row cover over raspberry plants in tunnels offers about
12˚F of protection. In Garrett County, Maryland, styrofoam sheets (1/2 inch thick)
with a R-value of 1, covered with 2 mil polyethylene plastic, protected plants in
unheated greenhouses down to 18˚F, even after several sub-freezing days outdoors.
If foam sheets are removed for the day and replaced at night, about 25˚F of frost
protection is afforded if the day is sunny and the night is wind-free.
Spring production should begin as much as 2-3 weeks before outdoors fall planted
or overwintered plants. This early production will be in high demand. Growers must
remain aware of the outside temperature during the night due to the fact that the
row covers may need to be replaced in order to prevent the loss of flowers.
Greenhouse Production
Considerable work regarding greenhouse strawberry production has taken
place at Cornell University and at USDA’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station
in Kearneysville, West Virginia. Production costs for greenhouse strawberry
production will be fairly high. At Cornell, a break-even price of $3.00 per pint
was calculated. Growers interested in additional information should consult the
NRAES Strawberry Production Guide for the Northeast, Midwest, and Eastern
Canada (Pritts and Handley, 1998; see Appendix E for details) or other sources of
information. Briefly described, in this system, dormant crowns are planted in pots
and grown outdoors until late fall, and then cold stored at 28-30˚F. Both Junebearing and everbearer types have been used successfully. June-bearing varieties
are moved into the greenhouse at intervals for fruit production 10-13 weeks later.
Everbearers can be treated the same way, which will produce a “spring crop.” Using
this system with lower light levels may cause some everbearing varieties to develop
“spring” fruit that is misshapen. Supplemental light and a day-night temperature
regime of 75-55˚F are used. Everbearers will continue to fruit and should be left
to produce until fruit becomes small. Plants must remain simple (only a few crown
branches), this can occur by keeping the crowns exposed—that is, growers should
not put more soil around the plant to stimulate new roots. Nutrients are provided
both in the mix and with a complete fertilizer solution that supplies 50-100 parts
per million of nitrogen. Bumble bees were found to work well as pollinators.
Powdery mildew and two-spotted spider mites are likely to be problems, as in high
tunnel production. In addition, other insects that are common greenhouse pests
(e.g. fungus gnats and thrips) and gray mold have proven problematic. Vigilant
scouting and early release of biocontrol agents can prevent many of these pests
from developing into significant problems.
Vertical Systems, Table Top, and Soilless Culture
The relatively high return, the high cost of tunnels and greenhouses, and the small
size of strawberry plants make off-season everbearing strawberries an interesting
plant to grow using a variety of unconventional systems. However, as of this writing,
the use of vertical, table top, or
other specialized systems for
strawberry production in the
eastern United States has yet
to show significant advantages
over production in the ground.
Yields are not higher than those
that can be achieved more
easily in conventional systems.
The intensive management
required for unconventional
systems presents a challenge
for many growers, and the
high cost of these systems is
often difficult to recoup. The
University of Maryland Extension
team recommends that growers
Fig. 4.5 Container production in the Netherlands.
(with the exception of the most
experienced everbearer growers) should first gain experience and success with the
crop using a conventional plasticulture system before considering more specialized
Out-of-the-ground or elevated systems take advantage of high planting densities
to produce high yields in small spaces. These systems lower the cost of the
greenhouse or high tunnel per pound of fruit produced, but add to costs per pound
of fruit produced as well as increase management. Out-of-the-ground systems
require effective management and the ability to capitalize on higher out-of-season
prices. Everbearers are an excellent selection for summer production; however,
June-bearers (especially those bred to fruit in winter like Florida’s “Strawberry
Festival”) are a strong choice for heated winter production. Out-of-the-ground
systems features may include:
• Most out-of-the-ground systems begin with some form of soil-less growing media.
•Coir, peat, and rice hull mixes and various homemade blends of peat, leaf mold,
perlite (less common) and compost/manure (<30%) are used as a growing media
•Water management in containers is critical. A flexible watering system should
be designed that is capable of delivering water at frequent intervals during hot
weather and high fruit production.
•The main consideration for the media is to select media that will both hold water
and nutrients and drain off excess water. For standard housing gutters, a thinlayer (1/2-inch deep) of perlite on the bottom of the gutter to drain the water from
the mix is recommended.
• 3/8-inch holes are drilled every 12 inches to allow drainage if gutters are used.
Everbearing plantings are expected to continue producing fruit for 6-11 months.
Planting dates are usually off-phase with outside planting dates to maximize fruit
price. Dormant plants can be used, but in Europe, plug plants are used. Slowrelease fertilizer is commonly used with fertigation through trickle irrigation.
Winter lighting is not common. However, if winter lighting is used, growers should
implement the following rule:
1% increase in light = 1% increase in yield
Out-of-the-ground strawberry plants are commonly “shallow planted;” this includes
planting horizontally in the Netherlands. In addition, plants are never “renovated” in
terms of adding soil to the top of the pot. The goal of these cultural techniques is to
prevent strawberry plants from branching while in elevated culture. When the crown
elongates in the air, with a small 1-2-branched bonsai-looking mini-tree, no new
roots will exist on the “high” crown. The lack of new roots will help keep the plant
simple, because the root-formed hormones that cause branching (cytokinins) will be
produced in limited quantities. This prevents the plant from becoming too complex,
which causes fruit size to decline in later months of production. From Mexico, to
Washington State, the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands—all elevated
strawberry plants look similar after 6 months—simple and vigorous.
Above-Ground Horizontal Systems
Horizontal systems can be at ground level or as elevated structures. Elevated
structures at breast- or neck-height are attractive, because picking fruit is easier.
Growing containers can be bags, gutters, or pots. The containers should be deep
and wide enough to provide for sufficient root growth and water retention; however,
plants may require multiple waterings per day and constant fertilization. Unlike
field plantings, there is limited ability to store water and nutrients. Galvanized metal
should be avoided because it may cause high concentrations of zinc.
Fig. 4.6 Elevated horizontal
system in a high tunnel in the
United Kingdom.
Fig. 4.7 Suspended horizontal
hydroponic system being used
in Mexico, note the boxes below
the troughs that were used for
a previous crop of peppers and
As fruit grows, it falls to the side of the containers, which may result in truss
breakage. A flat tape or string can be attached below the top of the container and
along the sides of the table; this catches the trusses and supports them during
ripening and harvest.
Vertical Systems
The two major considerations for vertical systems are water management and
planting orientation. Vertical system water management may become problematic
if water is applied to a vertical rigid plastic tube or column filled with soil. The
water will move to the bottom and the top of the vertical column will be dry. This
occurrence can be corrected in two ways in vertical systems: (1) restrictors are
placed in the vertical tube that runs down the column; or (2) the vertical column is
segmented to prevent water from flowing down to the bottom of the column.
Above: Fig. 4.8 Vertical growing system
using rigid PVC plastic columns.
Left: Fig. 4.9 Hydroponic vertical growing
Another interesting effect of some vertical operations is the order of ripening
from top to middle to bottom. Overcrowding may occur if the columns are placed
too close together, causing a difference in light and heat accumulation. Because
the light and heat are from the same source (the sun), knowing the temperature
stratification, which can be taken with a meat type thermometer is a simple way
to plan spacing. Spacing varies, based on latitudes, time of year, sun angle, and
number of cloudless days. Most of these systems have set numbers of plants per
area (i.e. linear or square feet), therefore spacing the columns is a method that can
maximize yield per tunnel or greenhouse. Finally, in grape production the rule of
thumb is the farther north the planting the taller the trellis. Incident light on tall
trellises in north latitudes occurs at a lower angle and shading is not as severe—an
aspect that has some utility when designing the height and dimensions of vertical
systems. A grower’s perception with regards to excessive shading may prove
Strawberry plants, due to their size and architecture can be grown in as many
innovative cultural systems as possible or as many as financially feasible. Because
of their high productivity and ability to produce throughout the year, everbearing
strawberry plants allow many of these systems to become profitable. Growers
should gain some experience with growing everbearing strawberries with a
conventional system before taking on a large scale alternative system.
To determine the highest potential yields per square
foot (or acre) of floor, compare yield-per-plant
records with plant number-per-square foot of floor.
C h a p t e r
P e s t s
Everbearing strawberries are affected by many of the same pests as June-bearing
plants. However, the plants produce fruit during the entire growing season, instead
of only in spring and early summer. Therefore, the fruit-feeding pests usually present
during late summer or whose populations build as the summer progresses, can
be more problematic for everbearers than June-bearers. A second consideration
is that pest control products must have a pre-harvest interval that is shorter than
the interval between harvests. Because fruit is harvested for a long period of time,
pesticide use is limited to certain products. If products with a long pre-harvest interval
must be used during harvest, any fruit picked within the pre-harvest interval must
be discarded in order to avoid the possibility of fruit having higher levels of pesticide
residues than are allowed. Finally, plants are already stressed from producing fruit.
Additional stress from insects or diseases can cause great reductions in plant health
and future fruit production. This guide does not attempt to address all possible pest
issues that may arise—only those that are likely to become problems for everbearer
production. Additional references are listed under “Additional Reading” for growers
who require additional information regarding pests and pest management. Appendix
A lists fungicides available for the diseases discussed in this guide; Appendix B lists
the insecticides, miticides, and molluscides.
Root Rots (including Verticillium wilt, Red stele, Fusarium,
Rhizoctonia, and Pythium root rots)
Many root-rotting diseases that
affect strawberries can be avoided
with annual planting of strawberries
if effective cultural practices are
followed. To avoid diseases that
affect the root system, an important
cultural practice is to rotate crops.
Strawberries should not be planted
in fields that have had strawberries,
solanaceous crops (e.g. tomatoes
and potatoes) or other fruit crops
for at least 5 years; 10 years is a
preferable time scenario. Promising
selections for preceding crops that
Fig. 5.1 Plant with root rot.
have few pests in common with strawberries are cereal grains and corn (be aware
of possible herbicide residue carryover). Also, strawberries should only be planted
in well-drained soil; however, raised beds are helpful for marginal situations. For
soilless culture, especially those with minimal amount of peat moss or other organic
composts, the severity of black root rotting organisms, especially Pythium, is much
greater than in soil. The use of Trichoderma has been helpful for combating this
problem, which can result in plant collapse for susceptible varieties.
Gray Mold (Botrytis)
Gray mold, which causes a gray fuzzy coating on affected fruit when sporulating,
is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. The fungus lives as a parasite and
saprophyte on decaying plant debris. The fungus will invade the developing fruit
and cause it to rot when it is time for the fruit to ripen. The fungus can cause a
blossom blight, especially during prolonged periods of wet overcast days, and this
fungus also can turn the caps brown. Protecting the fruit begins with applying
fungicides during bloom; at this time the fungus invades the blossoms and grows
into tissues that will form the fruit, only to become apparent later. Ripe fruit
also can be infected from other fruit or leaves, particularly when the fruit is in
contact with plant material that is already infected. Cultural practices that remove
disease inoculums will help; such practices include continuous fruit harvest,
removal of decaying fruit from the field, and removal of dead foliage from the
field. Any practice that encourages drying the foliage and fruit, such as keeping
the field weeded and row middles short, will minimize the periods of wetness that
are required for fungal spore germination. Several fungicides are effective for
controlling gray mold; however, the fungicide selected should have a short preharvest interval. These fungicides should be applied according to the label, but
may require repeated treatments due to the extended flowering season of the
everbearers. Growers must ensure that they rotate among fungicides with different
modes of action, designated by different Fungicide Resistance Action Committee
(FRAC) codes in order to avoid building up strains of the fungus with resistance to
certain pesticide chemistries.
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum spp.)
Several species of fungi that are closely related can cause a variety of symptoms
including fruit rot, crown rot, leaf spots, or lesions on runners and petioles. Most
commonly observed and problematic for everbearing plants is anthracnose fruit
rot, which first appears as tan sunken fruit lesions on the fruit that then turn dark
brown or black in color. Salmon-colored spores also may eventually appear on these
At this time, no everbearer cultivars have been noted to have resistance, though
degree of susceptibility varies (see cultivar descriptions). This disease is a warm
weather disease; thus, fungicides are not needed until temperatures warm, usually
about the time that the first fruit are formed. Cultural practices are important, and
should be primarily concerned with obtaining clean plants from a reputable supplier
and avoiding cultivars that are extremely susceptible. If anthracnose is noticed in
a certain area in the field, growers must be aware that inoculum can be distributed
to other plants on equipment or the harvester’s hands. The disease cannot exist
without living plant tissue; thus, rototilling under plants in badly infected areas or
rows can help stop spread of the disease. Several effective fungicides that control
anthracnose are in existence; however, several of them are in the strobilurin
chemical class (FRAC code 11) which is at risk for development of fungal resistance.
Thus, growers must strictly follow manufacturer recommendations for usage as
listed on the package. If lesions are noted, apply effective labeled fungicides every
7-10 days until temperatures cool and symptoms lessen.
Fig. 5.2 Strawberry fruit with Anthracnose.
Powdery Mildew
The powdery mildew fungus, Sphaerotheca macularis, must have living tissue
to survive. The mycelium causes the upper leaf surface to have a white dusty
upper appearance, and the leaf underside develops a purple coloration which can
cause the leaves to curl inward. Infected fruit has a white powdery appearance
and seeds may fall off easily when the surface is rubbed. Though uncommon,
flower parts also may be invaded, thus causing fruit to either fail to form or to
be severely misshapen. Among everbearers, the cultivar Seascape is notoriously
susceptible. Conditions of warm temperatures, high humidity, and low rainfall can
commonly cause powdery mildew issues to become worse. Thus, disease incidence
is frequently higher in high tunnels than it is in the field. Cultural controls consist
of using practices that minimize humidity levels in the planting such as keeping
field plantings weeded and high tunnels well ventilated. Several effective fungicides
exist, but are at risk for development of fungal strains resistant to them. Thus,
precautions should be taken in their use such as rotating among different chemical
classes and minimizing the number of sprays applied to the extent possible.
Fig. 5.3 Powdery Mildew on fruit.
Fungal Leaf Spots (Common Leaf Spot, Leaf Scorch,
and Leaf Blight)
Various leaf spots can be problematic for everbearing cultivars, especially late
in the season when growth of the foliage slows and damp cool conditions are
conducive to fungal sporulation. Differences in appearance between the three
most common ones are that common leaf spots are usually small (1/8–1/4 inch
across), and begin having a white center which may fall out as the spot ages. Spots
resulting from leaf scorch usually range from dark red to purple, and are a solid
color, and may coalesce to occupy large areas of the leaf that die and turn dry. This
is probably the most common leaf spot disease for everbearing cultivars in the
Northeast, and can be confused with bacterial leaf spot (see below). Leaf blight
begins as a V-shaped discolored wedge with the widest part at the edge of the leaf,
and usually is not very problematic within a planting. All of these diseases also can
infect the caps making fruit much less attractive. Any cultural practices that reduce
periods of leaf wetness and humidity will be helpful. Several fungicides are labeled
for control of the various leaf spots.
Fig. 5.4 Common Leaf Spot.
Bacterial (Angular) Leaf Spot
This disease is worse under cold wet conditions, such as when overhead irrigation
has been used in the spring for frost protection, or in fall after temperatures cool.
Bacterial leaf spots can be differentiated from fungal leaf spots because the leaves,
when viewed have light shining through them as well as a clear or “windowpane”
appearance between the small veins of the leaf. Since the spots are contained
between these small veins at first, they have an angular (blocky) appearance
rather than being circular as with common leaf spot and leaf scorch. The fruit caps,
when remaining wet, will have a blackened appearance, but as they dry, the cap
color becomes brown. All everbearing cultivars tested in the East have moderate
to considerable susceptibility to this disease. Since this disease is bacterial and
not fungal, conventional fungicides have no effect, though copper sprays may be
helpful. Growers should watch for signs of phytotoxicity such as leaf discoloration
(purple spots), and discontinue use if phytotoxicity symptoms become apparent.
Fig. 5.5 Angular Leaf Spot on the calyx.
Fig. 5.7 Leaf Scorch compared to Angular Leaf Spot with light
from the back.
Fig. 5.6 Leaf Scorch versus Angular Leaf Spot.
Insects, Mites, and Mollusks
Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus lineolaris)
The adult tarnished plant bug is a small (approximately 1/4 inch long) and brownish
colored insect with a “brassy” appearance. It has a distinct ‘V’ shaped marking
on the center of its back behind its head. The tarnished plant bug is a true bug
with piercing-sucking mouth parts; it feeds upon a variety of weeds and cultivated
crops. Several generations occur each year with adults and nymphs present from
April until frost in the fall. Because of multiple generations occurring within one
season, populations continue to build as the season progresses. Therefore, damage
to everbearing cultivars can be even more extensive than with June-bearers.
Tarnished plant bug adults overwinter in protected areas. They return to strawberry
fields during the spring to feed upon all sorts of plant parts, but the most noticeable
damage occurs when tarnished plant bugs feed upon the seeds and fruit tissue of
developing berries. Distortion of the berries known as “cat-facing” occurs when
feeding by the bug destroys developing embryos in the seeds; this prevents the
growth of the fruit tissue underneath and surrounding the damaged seeds and
results in severely deformed fruit. When feeding occurs on the tips of the young
berries, the tips do not expand, which causes an injury referred to as “button berry.”
Seeds are clumped at the tips of these small, underdeveloped fruits.
Tarnished plant bugs can be difficult to control with regard to everbearing
strawberries due to the extended bloom time. Mowing nearby weedy areas or
hayfields may heighten the problem, because displaced plant bugs relocate into
strawberry fields. Growers should review Appendix B for pesticides used to control
tarnished plant bugs.
Fig. 5.8 Late instar Tarnished Plant Bug nymph.
Fig. 5.9 Adult Tarnished Plant Bug on strawberry bloom.
Potato Leafhopper (Empoasca fabae)
The potato leafhopper does not overwinter in the Northeast; instead it is carried
into the area annually by winds travelling from the South. Leafhoppers typically
become a larger problem during early to mid-summer and often infest strawberry
fields after nearby hay fields have been harvested. Low populations of leafhoppers
may not be noticed because they are tiny (1/8 inch long) and adults quickly
disperse when disturbed. The light green nymphs, however, will remain on the
leaf undersides and move sideways to escape detection. As populations increase,
downward cupping and yellowing of leaves will become apparent. Symptoms are
often most severe on small or stressed plants. Leafhopper populations must be
controlled if populations are causing damage; otherwise, plants will be stunted and
late season production will be limited. Several insecticides are labeled for use on
strawberries, however, because the insect moves in from outside the region, no
cultural controls are effective in decreasing populations.
Strawberry Sap Beetle (Stelidota germinate)
Adult sap beetles are small, dark brown oval-shaped beetles that
are about 1/8 inch long. They chew small holes into ripe fruit, often
where the fruit touches the ground. In addition to the obvious
damage which appears similar to slug feeding, sap beetles also
introduce fruit rot organisms as they feed. Sap beetles can be
difficult to locate, except when populations are large, because they
tend to quickly drop to the ground and find a hiding place when
Fig. 5.10 Sap Beetle.
Adult sap beetles emerge during the spring from protected overwintering sites in
wooded areas. These beetles are attracted to overripe decaying berries on which
they will feed and deposit their eggs. After the eggs hatch, larvae feed upon the
strawberry fruit for approximately 1 1/2 weeks after which they burrow into the soil
and pupate. Adults emerge 2-3 weeks later and begin the cycle over again.
The best way to manage sap beetle populations is through cultural control. Because
sap beetles are highly attracted to decaying fruit, good sanitation practices are
essential. Growers should pick berries before they become overripe and destroy
unmarketable fruit rather than letting it lay in the field. It is recommended that
growers do not plant more strawberries than can be picked in a timely manner.
Pesticides may be used, but they will not provide as much control as proper cultural
Slugs are mollusks that can cause considerable damage to strawberries; they create
small, moderately deep holes in the ripening fruit. Slugs often feed under the cap
on strawberries, but holes can be found almost anywhere on the berry. These
pests usually feed at night, but they also may feed during the day if the weather is
overcast and rainy. The shiny slime trails left behind on plants or on the ground are
tell-tale signs of their activity.
Slugs range in color from gray to cream and may even be spotted. Depending
on the species, slugs may be 1/4–8 inches long. Slugs prefer to hide in cool damp
locations during the day. Their eggs are laid in clusters in cracks in the soil, in
compost piles, and under layers of wet leaves. Slugs reach adult size in 3-12 months
and can live for several years.
Slug populations can be controlled through a variety of methods, but habitat
modification and chemical control strategies are most efficient for moderate to
large scale producers. Slug control should be initiated with the elimination of
favorable habitats for slugs to hide and breed. This can be achieved by removing
excessive mulch, piles of junk, boards or rocks, and compost piles from close
proximity to the field. Slugs can be collected in the morning by traps constructed
of wet boards, shingles, or overturned flower pots set the previous evening.
Commercially produced baits are readily available and provide effective control.
Iron phosphate baits degrade readily into the soil, and unlike products containing
metaldehyde, can be used near the plants.
Japanese Beetle adults (Popillia japonica)
Japanese beetle adults are 1/2 inch long metallic
green to bronze insects. Typically, Japanese beetle
adults are not significant pests with regards to
June-bearing strawberries, unless they are feeding
upon the foliage late in the season in large numbers.
However, with regards to everbearers, Japanese
beetle adults may feed upon the fruit causing
holes. In addition, these pests may fall into harvest
containers where they crawl to the bottom of the
container to hide. Only one generation appears each
year, but not all adults emerge at the same time
Fig. 5.11 Japanese Beetle on strawberry flower.
and they can fly great distances. Individual adults live
for 30-45 days; therefore, control measures may be required for up to 2 months.
Larvae feed on roots during late summer and late fall. No cultural methods have
proven very effective. Because Japanese beetle pheromones (scent attractants)
used in many traps attract even more Japanese beetles to the field, hand-picking or
treating the field when the first beetles appear may assist in minimizing numbers
in the field. Few insecticides are labeled for use against Japanese beetles for
strawberries, and the most effective one has a long pre-harvest interval that may
preclude its use during harvest.
Spider Mites (Tetranychus spp.)
Spider mites are not insects, but are related to ticks and spiders. They have 8 legs
and are about the size of a period. The two-spotted spider mite is the species most
commonly found on strawberries. Spider mites typically feed upon the underside
of leaves. Mites suck the contents out of individual plant cells, thus removing
chlorophyll and causing the leaves to have a stippled appearance. When mite
populations are high, leaves develop a bronze color from the feeding damage and
webbing may be present on the underside of the leaves. Mites sometimes inject
toxins as they feed, which may cause leaf distortion as well as discoloration. Mite
feeding interferes with plant physiology and may result in stunting, reduced yield,
and plant death. Because mites are difficult to see and they feed on the underside
of leaves, they may be easily overlooked until significant damage has occurred.
Increases in spider mite populations frequently follow the use of broad-spectrum
insecticides, which often harm beneficial insect or mite populations that had been
keeping the spider mite population under control.
Due to short generation times, spider mite populations can build quickly especially
under warm, dry conditions. New plantings can become infested by mites carried by
the wind from other locations; therefore it is very important for growers to monitor
their plants on a weekly basis to detect the presence of spider mites using a 10X
hand lens. Plasticulture plantings that will be carried to the following year should be
checked for spider mites before straw or row covers are applied in the fall, because
the warm protected environment will allow mite populations to increase over the
Spider mite infestations can be suppressed through several methods. When twospotted mite populations are low, predatory mites can be purchased commercially
and released. Miticides should be applied if more than 25% of inspected leaves have
mites, a sharp population rise is noticed, or if plant health worsens. Thorough spray
coverage of leaf undersides is critical in order for chemical control applications to
be effective. Therefore, high spray volume and high spray pressure must be used to
achieve good coverage. Miticides with different modes of action should be alternated
during subsequent applications in order to prevent resistance from occurring. (See
Appendix B for miticide listings). Miticides differ in their effect on beneficial mite
populations and in which stage of pest mite populations they control. Growers must
read the label or other sources of information for additional details.
Cyclamen mite (Steneotarsonemus pallidus)
Cyclamen mites are not visible with less
than 20X magnification. The symptoms from
their feeding—small distorted off-color new
leaves—are probably always noticed before
the mites are discovered. If populations
continue to build, plants will become
unproductive. Cyclamen mites may arrive
in the field on nursery plants, and can be
spread on workers hands or implements.
Predatory mites can assist in control.
Labeled miticides are listed in Appendix B.
Fig. 5.12 Cyclamen mite damage on strawberry foliage.
A d d i t i o n a l
R e a d i n g
Bringhurst, R.S., and V. Voth. 1978. Origin and evolutionary potentiality of the dayneutral trait in octoploid Fragaria. Genetics 90:510.
Childers, N.F., Ed. 2003. The Strawberry—A Book for Growers, Others. Dr. Norman F.
Childers Publications, Gainesville, FL. 246 pp.
Demchak, K., et al. 2010. The Mid-Atlantic Berry Guide for Commercial Growers. Penn
State Coop. Ext. Pub. AGRS-97. 275 pp.
Everts, K.F., G.E. Brust, and G.P. Dively. 2009. Commercial Vegetable Production
Recommendations. Rutgers University, University of Maryland, University of Delaware,
Penn State, and Virginia Tech. UMD Ext. Bulletin. 236 (revised). 267 pp.
Hancock, J.F., 1999. Strawberries. CABI Publishing. New York, NY. 237 pp.
Lamont, Jr., W., et al. 2004. Production of Vegetables, Strawberries, and Cut Flowers
Using Plasticulture. NRAES-133. 156 pp.
Pritts, M. and D. Handley. 1998. Strawberry Production Guide for the Northeast,
Midwest, and Eastern Canada. NRAES-88.162 pp.
Sánchez, E.S. and T.J. Richard. 2009. Using Organic Nutrient Sources. Penn State Coop.
Ext. Pub. UJ-256. 275 pp.
Cooley, D., and S. Schloemann. Integrated Pest Management for Strawberries in the
Northeastern United States. UMass Ext. Pub. IP-STRW.
Guinn, L. and S. Kline. 2010. Pest Management Guide for Horticultural and Forest Crops.
Virginia Coop. Ext. Pub.456-017. 292 pp.
Maas, J.L., Ed., 1998. Compendium of Strawberry Diseases 2nd ed. APS Press. 128 pp.
Fungicides for Strawberry Disease and Insect Control
Note: The recommendations below are correct to the best of the University of Maryland
Extension’s knowledge. Other formulations with the same active ingredient as some of the
products listed below may exist and may or may not be labeled for the same uses. Always consult
the label before making pesticide applications. Information is current as of October 1, 2009. See
text discussions on diseases for information on timing of application for effectiveness. Some
materials are at high risk for development of resistant fungal strains. Be sure to follow label for
limitations on use beyond pre-harvest and reentry intervals and follow recommendations for
rotations with other pesticide chemistries.
Botrytis fruit rot
(gray mold)
Anthracnose fruit rot
Powdery mildew
Common name
Product example and labeled
rate per acre
Days to
Elevate 50WDG, 1.5 lb
12 hr
captan + fenhexamid
Captevate 68WDG, 3.5–5.25 lb
M + 17
24 hr
pyraclostrobin + boscalid
Pristinea, 18.5–23 oz
11 + 7
12 hr
Scala SC, 18 oz
12 hr
cyprodinil + fludioxinil
Switch 62.5WDG, 11–14 oz
9 + 12
12 hr
Captec 4L, 3 qt
24 hr
Thiram 75WDG, 4.4 lb
24 hr
thiophanate-methyl +
Topsin M 70WSB, 0.5 lb plus
Captec 4L, 1.5 qt
24 hr
pyraclostrobin + boscalid
Pristinea, 18.5–23 oz
11 + 7
12 hr
Cabrio EG, 12–14 oz
12 hr
Aboundb, 6.2–15.4 oz
4 hr
captan + fenhexamid
Captevate 68WDG, 5.25 lb
M + 17
24 hr
cyprodinil + fludioxinil
Switch 62.5WDG, 11–14 oz
9 + 12
12 hr
Captan 50W, 6 lb
24 hr
Rally 40W, 2.5–5.0 oz
24 hr
Procure 50WS, 4–8 oz
12 hr
Orbit, 4 fl oz
12 hr
Cabrio EG, 12–14 oz
12 hr
pyraclostrobin + boscalid
Pristine , 18.5–23 oz
11 + 7
12 hr
Quintec, 4–6 fl oz
12 hr
Abound , 6.2–15.4 oz
4 hr
Rally 40W , 2.5–5.0 oz
24 hr
pyraclostrobin + boscalid
Pristinea, 18.5–23 oz
11 + 7
12 hr
Captec 4L, 3 qt
24 hr
Cabrio EG, 12–14 oz
12 hr
copper hydroxide
Kocide 2000, 1.5-2.25 lb
24 hr
Common Leaf Spot
Angular Leaf Spot
a. FRAC codes refer to fungicide classifications as designated by the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee. Different
numbers denote different modes of action.
b. + = slightly effective, ++ = moderately effective, and +++ = very effective.
Insecticides, Miticides, and Molluscides for Strawberry Pest Control
Note: The recommendations below are correct to the best of the University of Maryland
Extension’s knowledge. Other formulations with the same active ingredient as some of the
products listed below may exist and may or may not be labeled for the same uses. Always consult
the label before making pesticide applications. Information is current as of October 1, 2009. See
text discussions for information on timing of application for effectiveness. Some materials are at
high risk for development of resistant pest strains. Be sure to follow label for limitations on use
beyond pre-harvest and reentry intervals and follow recommendations for rotations with other
pesticide chemistries.
Tarnished Plant Bug
Sap Beetles
Japanese Beetle Adults
Spider mites (adults or
adults plus immatures)
Common name
Product example and
labeled rate per acre
Days to
Brigade WSB, 6.4–32 oz
12 hr
Assail 70WP, 1.7-3.0 oz
12 hr
Danitol 2.4EC, 10.67 oz
24 hr
Malathion 57EC, 1.5–3.0 pt
12 hr
Thionex 50WP, 2 lb
5 days
Sevin 4F, 1.5–2 qt
12 hr
Malathion 57EC, 1.5–3.0 pt
12 hr
Sevin 4F, 1–2 qt
12 hr
Actara, 1.5–3.0 oz
12 hr
Assail 70WP, 0.8–1.7 oz
12 hr
insecticidal soap
M-Pede, 2.0% solution
12 hr
Brigade WSB, 6.4–32 oz
12 hr
Danitol 2.4EC, 16–21.3 oz
24 hr
Assail 70WP, 1.7-3.0 oz
12 hr
Deadline Bullets, 10–40 lb
12 hr
iron phosphate
Sluggo, 20–44 lb
0 hr
Assail 70WP, 1.7-3.0 oz
12 hr
Pyganic EC 1.4 II, 1–4 pt
12 hr
Sevin 4F, 1–2 qt
12 hr
Acramite 50WS, 0.75–1.0 lbs
12 hr
Kanemite 15SC, 21–31 fl oz
12 hr
Oberon 2SC, 12–16 fl oz
12 hr
Agri-Mek 0.15EC, 16 oz (3)
12 hr
fenbutatin oxide
Vendex 50WP, 1.5–2.0 lb (1)
48 hr
Kelthane 50W, 1–2 lb (3)
48 hr
Savey 50DF, 6 oz
12 hr
Spider mites
Zeal, 2–3 oz
12 hr
Thionex 50WP, 4 lb (4)
5 days
Kelthane 50W, 3.0–4.0 lb
48 hr
a. IRAC codes refer to pesticide classifications as designated by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee. Different
numbers denote different modes of action.
b. + = slightly effective, ++ = moderately effective, and +++ = very effective.
c. Information is not available
d. A specific pre-harvest interval was not specified on the label.
e. Kelthane use is being discontinued. Growers may continue to use existing stocks for strawberries.